Facebook to Agree to 20 Years of Privacy Audits
Facebook and the FTC are supposedly near a settlement over privacy complaints. If the settlement is accepted by both parties, Facebook will have agreed to twenty years of privacy audits by the FTC. In addition, Facebook will agree not to make changes that will reveal information a subscriber has made private.
This settlement is a reaction to changes Facebook made to privacy options in 1999 that resulted in a myriad of complaints, including this one from the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The changes included removing things like an option to share information only with people in your region, a change which made information protected by that option public. The changes rolled out in 1999 were also confusing to end users, and the guidance Facebook offered encouraged people to make information public.
Now both Facebook and Google will be subject to twenty years of privacy audits. The Google agreement states (pdf) that Google will not misrepresent the purpose or extent of their collection of personal information, will obtain express consent for sharing information, conduct privacy risk assessments and implement "reasonable" privacy controls, among other things.
If the Facebook settlement is similar, this will help prepare Facebook both for an upcoming IPO and for upcoming tighter European Privacy controls.