Facebook may be close to privacy deal with FTC

Social network called close to settlement over 2009 privacy changes

Facebook is close to reaching a deal with the Federal Trade Commission over charges that the social network engaged in "deceptive behavior" when changing its privacy settings, according to a report Thursday in the Wall Street Journal.

The settlement, which reportedly calls for Facebook to get consent before making "material retroactive changes", is awaiting approval from the agency, the Journal said. Citing unnamed sources, the report also said the agreement would require Facebook to submit to independent privacy audits for 20 years.

Facebook declined to comment Thursday.

The FTC charges reportedly stem from changes the social network made to its privacy settings late in 2009. The changes, according to critics, made certain information public by default, such as user names, city of residence, profile pictures, fan pages and friend lists.

Over the past several years, Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg have been involved in several skirmishes over privacy.

The company took heat for changing its privacy policies, having complicated privacy controls and for letting popular applications, such as Farmville and Texas HoldEm Poker, share user information with third parties.

In September, two lawmakers called for the FTC to launch an investigation into Facebook's tracking of its users even after they leave the social networking site.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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