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Facebook delays ad plans after complaints


By Robert Harris

Posted on 9 Sep 2013 at 15:21

Facebook has delayed controversial amendments to its Data Use Policy - at least until next week.

The changes, which would let the company use the names and profile pictures of Facebook accounts for third-party advertising, were originally intended to take effect on 5 September.

However, last week, six consumer watchdog groups sent a letter to the US Federal Trade Commission objecting to the potential breaches of privacy that the new policy could impose.

"Facebook users who reasonably believed that their images and content would not be used for commercial purposes without their consent will now find their pictures showing up on the pages of their friends endorsing the products of Facebook’s advertisers," the letter reads. "Remarkably, their images could even be used by Facebook to endorse products that the user does not like or even use."

We are taking the time to ensure that user comments are reviewed and taken into consideration

A spokeswoman for the FTC confirmed that it had received the letter but said it had no further comment to add.

Facebook users have voiced similar objections to the proposed changes, anxious about supposedly private information being exposed without their consent, although the company has claimed that this update in part aims to make this data sharing more transparent.

In its initial proposal addressed to its users, Facebook said: "we revised our explanation of how things like your name, profile picture and content may be used in connection with ads or commercial content to make it clear that you are granting Facebook permission for this use when you use our services."

Facebook has since backpedaled on its initial plans, declaring in a statement to Los Angeles Times: "We are taking the time to ensure that user comments are reviewed and taken into consideration to determine whether further updates are necessary and we expect to finalise the process in the coming week."

This is not the first time that the social networking giant has been accused of violating the rights of its users through its sponsored advertising feature.

A lawsuit filed against the company in 2011 alleged that by publicising users’ "likes" of advertisers, without any way for them to opt-out, infringed on Californian state law. Facebook was forced to pay a $20m settlement in compensation.

Facebook has yet to respond to request for further comment.

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