WASHINGTON – Facebook agreed Tuesday to settle a privacy complaint filed by federal trade regulators, who accused the social networking site of deceiving users by "repeatedly" making supposedly private information publicly available.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said Facebook "deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public."
I ... understand that many people are just naturally skeptical of what it means for hundreds of millions of people to share so much personal information online, especially using any one service.
- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
In a blog post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted that, despite Facebook's efforts to be transparent, the company has "made a bunch of mistakes."
As part of the settlement, Facebook agreed to take several steps meant to protect user privacy, including getting users' permission "before enacting changes that override their privacy preferences."
The company also will be required to "prevent anyone from accessing a user's material no more than 30 days after the user has deleted his or her account."
News of the settlement came as many media outlets reported that Facebook was preparing an initial public offering that may get priced sometime in the second quarter of next year. An initial filing for the IPO could come before the end of December.
The settlement stemmed from allegations that Facebook repeatedly "made promises" related to user privacy that the company eventually failed to keep, the FTC said.
For example, the FTC said that, in December 2009, Facebook "changed its website," allowing certain information that users may have designated as private to be made public, including friends lists.
"They didn't warn users that this change was coming, or get their approval in advance," the FTC said.
Zuckerberg acknowledged the concerns related to privacy, saying in the blog post, "I also understand that many people are just naturally skeptical of what it means for hundreds of millions of people to share so much personal information online, especially using any one service."
The FTC settlement, he added, "means we're making a clear and formal long-term commitment to do the things we've always tried to do and planned to keep doing."
Read more at marketwatch.com.