Following the passing of new privacy guidelines for social networks by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Facebook stated that they are very willing to follow those rules. Putting this to practice may be more difficult than it seems.
It is quite well known that any and all information once posted on Facebook is stored by the website for ever. The information could be concerning a user’s location, sexuality, political beliefs, religious beliefs or any thing else. Even if a user deletes content, it still remains in Facebook’s database indefinitely.
This information is then passed on to marketers and advertisers who wish to advertise to a highly targeted audience. The user is not even aware that this information has been stored and later passed on to others. In fact, Facebook’s advertising policy specifically forbid advertisers from making their ads seem too personalised lest this alert regular users to the degree of personal information the system actually shares with advertisers.
According to a report in the Telepgraph, the European Commission is planning to introduce a new directive that would actually ban targeted advertising on Facebook. This would be much harsher than the current FTC directive that’s just been imposed on the network.
A spokesman for the UK Information Commissioner says, “Facebook should ensure that any data it collects should be used in the manner that its users expect. If personal data is being passed on to a third party or used for targeted advertising then this should be made clear to the user when they sign up to the site and reinforced when users are invited to use an application.”
Facebook has, however, argued that they do not pass on specific information about users but only generalised information. This argument does not seem to have found favour with the FTC or the users, as it is very easy for the marketers to locate the person or persons concerned with the information that is made available to them.
The FTC has now ruled that Facebook can no longer pass on any of this information on to advertisers, unless the users specifically give their consent to do so. In other words, Facebook will have to change their policy from the current opt-out policy to an opt-in facility.
If Facebook fail to do so, they will have to face legal action or pay a huge fine.
It remains to be seen how Facebook will deal with the situation, as it could mean a big loss to them financially. This may even delay their plans of going on to the Wall Street Stock Exchange next year.