In a posting to the Facebook blog entitled "Our commitment to the Facebook community", Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed what was already all but apparent: that the beleaguered social networking colossus has reached a settlement with the FTC over privacy concerns related to data collection from Facebook users.
"I'm the first to admit that we've made a bunch of mistakes", Zuckerberg says. "In particular, I think that a small number of high profile mistakes, like Beacon four years ago and poor execution as we transitioned our privacy model two years ago..."
That admission isn't as surprising as it is a requirement of the settlement, but it comes as welcome news after a long history of playing fast and loose with user privacy. While not as final as a serious punishment, the settlement does have some teeth, and contains some benefit for consumers. Facebook now operates under the following conditions:
* They cannot make "misrepresentations about the privacy or security of consumers' personal information".
* They must "obtain consumers' affirmative express consent before enacting changes that override their privacy preferences".
* They must "prevent anyone from accessing a user's material no more than 30 days after the user has deleted his or her account".
* They must "establish and maintain a comprehensive privacy program designed to address privacy risks associated with the development and management of new and existing products and services, and to protect the privacy and confidentiality of consumers' information".
* They they must, "within 180 days, and every two years after that for the next 20 years, to obtain independent, third-party audits certifying that it has a privacy program in place that meets or exceeds the requirements of the FTC order, and to ensure that the privacy of consumers' information is protected".
Facebook's compliance with these orders will be monitored by the FCC. In addition, as Tech Crunch notes, Facebook's product development process must now ensure that member privacy is upheld, a job overseen by the new Chief Privacy Officers. These changes won't affect wayward teens unaware that posting photos of their drinking binges will hurt their college prospects and job interviews, but they will allow the rest of us to breath a bit easier as we contemplate a switch to Google Plus.