Privacy campaigners have welcomed a suggestion that Facebook may finally be about to ask it’s users to opt into any changes in the way it uses their personal information.The social network previously announced alterations to its members’ settings without asking for fresh consent.
The website is changing its policy after an investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
The report suggests the site has also agreed to privacy audits by an independent organisation over the next 20 years.
“Facebook has historically been extremely resistant to transparency in its own operations, so we welcome measures that would force the company to obtain express consent of its users,” said the advocacy group Privacy International.
“However, it seems likely that the FTC’s demands will only present a temporary obstacle in the path of Facebook’s ambitions to collect its users’ information.
“Faced with reams of small print, most users are likely to automatically agree to policy changes, with each change bringing us one step closer to Zuckerberg’s vision of a privacy-free future.”
The FTC’s intervention is being linked to the Washington-based campaign group, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
It filed a complaint with the commission in December 2009 claiming that privacy setting changes “violate user expectations, diminish user privacy and contradict Facebook’s own representations”.
EPIC noted that the website’s users, security experts and others had voiced opposition to the change.
The organisation filed a follow-up complaint in 2010 claiming the social network had violated consumer protection law.
This year, EPIC also asked the FTC to investigate Facebook’s use of facial recognition software on users’ uploaded photographs and changes that gave the firm “far greater ability to disclose the personal information of its users to its business partners”.
Facebook says it has more than 800 million members who have used the site at least once in the past 30 days.
Legal experts say any settlement with the FTC is likely to have implications for other internet firms.