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Facebook to get regulated over personal data sharing

Published time: November 11, 2011 12:15
Edited time: November 11, 2011 16:15
AFP Photo / Kimihiro Hoshino

AFP Photo / Kimihiro Hoshino

The ongoing battle for users’ rights over Facebook might finally bring some fruit. In the near future, the social network could be obliged to get users’ consent, every time it decides to make private data available to other members.

­This comes as Facebook has practically reached a pact with the US Federal Trade Commission over allegations of questionable private data policies.

The worldwide social network retrospectively and ex parte disclosed the personal data of many of its 800-plus million members.

The whole rumble actually started after multiple complaints of Facebook users that the personal data they never intended to make public was made so by the company, without giving them any prior notice whatsoever.

It is not a secret that knowing people’s grooves and fancies is priceless in marketing terms. There are countless companies and programs working to collect such data from anywhere on the web. So for data containing the likes of over 800 million buyers from 200-plus countries from around the world – you name the price!

And that is only one aspect that involves trade and business. There is another one, that has to do with security matters, and here the price involved is never too high.

If Facebook employs former US top-ranking officials who know a thing or two about security and classified data, one can only imagine what information they get, collecting personal data from social networks and cross-analyzing it on super-computers.

Ahead of a rumored initial public offering next year, that could possibly value the company up to $100 billion, Facebook is set to mend the differences which emerged a couple of years ago. In December 2009, the company made users’ profiles containing name, age, gender, whereabouts and friends, public by default to achieve a ‘simpler model for privacy control’. A short time later, a wave of complaints followed and later took the form of a filed complaint, led by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

It is believed that for the next 20 years, Facebook will be subject to independent privacy audits. Starting from 2012, the company will have to meet security law requirements and file public financial results.

Facebook is said to be prohibited from making private data open to a wider audience without the user’s consent. This comes as a broader government trend to hold private companies more accountable for the personal data they get from citizens.

There is a lawmaking campaign in the US calling for the protection of private information. The initiative has been backed by FTC and the Obama administration, the latter proposing to draw up a ‘privacy bill of rights’, with lawmakers proposing over a dozen privacy protection laws.

Facebook’s rivals Google Inc. and Twitter Inc. have also joined the privacy race, introducing ‘comprehensive privacy programs’ and new data-security practices respectively. Both Google and Twitter agreed to be subject to external security audits every other year, Google for the next 20 years and Twitter – for the next 10 years.

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