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Facebook settles privacy case with US FTC

Updated: 2011-12-01 04:10

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO - Facebook has settled complaints that it disregarded its users' privacy, agreeing to establish a raft of measures to better protect its 800 million members' data.

The settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday will require Facebook to obtain its users' consent for certain changes to privacy settings and subject Facebook to 20 years of independent audits.

The deal comes as Facebook, the world's No 1 Internet social networking company, is said to be gearing up for a massive $10 billion initial public offering next year, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday.

"I'm the first to admit that we've made a bunch of mistakes," co-founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a lengthy post on the company's official blog on Tuesday.

He said a few "high-profile" mistakes, such as changes to the service's privacy policy two years ago, "have often overshadowed much of the good work we've done."

To ensure that Facebook did a better job, Zuckerberg said the company had created two new corporate privacy officer positions to oversee Facebook products and policy.

In its complaint, the FTC said that Facebook had repeatedly violated laws against deceptive and unfair practices. For example, it said Facebook promised users that it would not share personal information with advertisers, but it did.

Also, the company had failed to warn users that it was changing its website in December 2009 so that certain information that users had designated as private, such as their "Friends List," would be made public, the FTC said.

Facebook, which has more than 800 million users, has often been criticized for its privacy practices since its founding in a Harvard dorm room in 2004.

Earlier this year, the company came under fire for practices related to its use of facial recognition technology to automatically identify people appearing in the photos that are shared on the service.