Heartland Institute Reacts to Facebook Privacy Settlement with FTC

Published November 29, 2011

Facebook today reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over charges it repeatedly broke promises of privacy to its hundreds of millions of users. The deal requires Facebook to warn users about privacy changes and to get their permission before sharing their information more broadly, according to the FTC.

The world’s largest social network also has agreed to be subject to government-directed “privacy audits” for the next 20 years.

The following statements from legal and technology experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Tammy Nash at [email protected] and 312/377-4000. After regular business hours, contact Jim Lakely at [email protected] and 312/731-9364.

“To be clear, Facebook was in the wrong – as was Google with its ‘Google Buzz’ controversy earlier this year. But the right to privacy online or otherwise should be an understanding between customers and the social networking sites with which they freely choose to participate or avoid.

“Violating such trust may prompt customers to network on other sites, rethink information they share on Facebook, or steer clear of such sites altogether. But what’s important is that they do so of their own volition without heavy-handed regulatory intervention by the FTC or any other government agency.

“Internet users are as a whole pretty savvy, and they are well-equipped to reward or punish companies who either mistakenly or willingly share their users’ private information.”

Bruce Edward Walker
Managing Editor, InfoTech & Telecom News
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

“Gee, Facebook users should feel much better now. In its settlement of an eight-count complaint, Facebook admitted it broke past promises of privacy to its users, but now it ‘promises’ not to do this in the future.

“The personal information people post on Facebook continues to leave me in shock and awe – mostly shock. Facebook posters should use one simple test: Would I be upset if the posted information appeared on the front page of my local newspaper or went viral on the Internet? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then don’t post. Period.”

Maureen Martin
Senior Fellow for Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

The Heartland Institute is a 27-year-old national nonprofit organization with offices in Chicago, Illinois; Washington, DC; Austin, Texas; Tallahassee, Florida; and Columbus, Ohio. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.