#Compliance: Facebook privacy -- or lack of it -- comes under fire

Facebook's privacy policy is under the microscope as users and regulators question what data the social media giant provides to outside sources.

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In what may be direct fallout from the National Security Agency's PRISM controversy, Facebook's privacy policy has come under fire in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission announced an inquiry into a newly proposed Facebook privacy policy and whether it violated a 2011 agreement that required user consent before exposing private information. The new policy states that as a condition of using Facebook, users are required to grant permission to use their personal information in advertising. Facebook reps said the change was required under a federal class action settlement from earlier this year.

After the privacy changes were announced, a coalition of public health, youth and consumer groups called on the FTC to block the changes on grounds that they subject teenagers to ad targeting and data collection.

It's not just faceless organizations raising concerns, either, as Facebook privacy issues are also finally trickling down to social media users: A study by University of Vienna researchers found that half of 300 Facebook users that quit the site did so due to privacy concerns. This trend -- which is described slightly melodramatically as committing "virtual identity suicide" -- prompted many to take to social media to express their opinions:

Under the social media giant's new privacy policy that sparked renewed FTC interest, Facebook users are required to grant the company permission to use their personal information in advertising as a condition of using Facebook. Critics said the move proved the lack of privacy on the site, and called on users and regulators to respond:

In an interview published in The Atlantic earlier this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed the company's decision to sue the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for its data collection requests. Zuckerberg said the company wants to "protect" Facebook users, a statement some found laughable given Facebook's recent privacy issues.

And of course, there was a fair share of snarky (albeit funny) comments regarding the Facebook privacy controversy, with many wondering how much discretion Facebook users should expect in the first place:

What do you think of the Facebook privacy controversy? Does Facebook go too far in collecting and distributing personal information, or is a lack of privacy to be expected when using social media? Voice your concerns in the comments section. We'd love to hear from you.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Ben Cole, site editor. For more regulatory compliance news and updates throughout the week, follow us on Twitter @ITCompliance.

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