The United States Federal Trade Commission has issued a statement about recent privacy concerns of Facebook users. Tom Pahl, Acting Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, issued a statement about Facebook’s privacy practices.
The FTC is firmly and fully committed to using all of its tools to protect the privacy of consumers. Foremost among these tools is enforcement action against companies that fail to honor their privacy promises, including to comply with Privacy Shield, or that engage in unfair acts that cause substantial injury to consumers in violation of the FTC Act. Companies who have settled previous FTC actions must also comply with FTC order provisions imposing privacy and data security requirements. Accordingly, the FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook. Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices.
Recently, I’ve been seeing reports from news media outlets that are saying the recent privacy misuse of Facebook users’ data was a data breach–referring to the Cambridge Analytica privacy issue that occurred in 2014. That event was NOT a data breach. No one hacked into Facebook. Here’s what actually happened:
- Someone set up a survey/poll/question web site. Separate from Facebook.
- It was shared on social media (Facebook). To take the poll/survey you had to log in with your Facebook account. Mainly on the premise that you would share the results on your Facebook profile.
- When you logged into that separate web site, you gave permission for the third party web site to access your Facebook profile and everything they know about you. That includes your likes, interests, demographics, etc. etc.. That also allowed that third party site to access your friends’ data, as well.
- They they gathered that data and sold it.
So, the bottom line is that this was not a data breach. No one hacked into Facebook and got the data about you, me, and other Facebook users. What happened is this:
You took a poll or survey, allowed someone else to access your Facebook account (that other web site), and then you shared the results of that survey or poll, prompting other Facebook friends to take the same poll or survey.
Don’t take those polls and surveys on Facebook, even if they’ll tell you what celebrity you look like. All they want is your data and access to your Facebook data.
The US FTC is opening an investigation about Facebook’s privacy practices. I personally doubt that they’ll find anything–what they will find, though, is that you personally gave up your privacy. I won’t be deleting Facebook #deletefacebook anytime soon, as I don’t take those polls and surveys and share them around. I do know, that as a social media professional, I do have to be there–at least until Facebook ends up becoming the next MySpace.