As reported by the New York Times yesterday, six major consumer privacy groups petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to block Facebook from implementing scheduled changes to its online privacy policies. The groups argued that the changes, which are to become effective later this week, allow Facebook to use the likenesses of Facebook users to endorse the products and services of Facebook's advertisers. Such endorsements may be made without user consent, and could be made even if a user does not like or even use the advertiser's product. The groups concluded that Facebook's planned changes violate a 2011 settlement agreement between Facebook and the FTC.
Facebook users have received the news of Facebook's intended privacy changes with acceptance, to skepticism, to alarm and outrage. One user wrote:
People who use [F]acebook for advertising would not have a problem with these new proposals. The majority of user[s] want control over their digital property because they are using [F]acebook as a means of communication with family and friends and not as a means of profit.
Other users were less sanguine: "If my face will be appearing on ads, I better goddamn well be getting paid for it. My rates are steep." Alternatively, as one user pithily stated, " Send me ads, fine. Use my photos or posts in ads, I'm out of here."
The groups seeking relief from the FTC include the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Watchdog, Patient Privacy Rights, U.S. PIRG, and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.