Facebook's privacy indiscretions old and new

The social media behemoth has agreed to pay £13m compensation for its latest privacy breach, we take a look at some of the others

by Gabriella Griffith
Last Updated: 09 Apr 2015
When social media and commerce collide, questions about privacy and ethics usually follow. Now Facebook has agreed to pay compensation to the 614,000 users whose personal details were used in its ads. Well, that’s not all of the users whose information was used; only the ones who responded to an email, which Facebook sent out earlier this year (150 million Facebook members have starred in Sponsored Stories over all).
The 614,000 organised Facebook users, who actually responded to the social network’s email, look set to receive a whopping £9.65 for their trouble. Don’t spend it all at once guys.
A US court approved the £13m payout on Monday – resolving an action filed against Facebook in 2011 by five of its users. Good to see these things are resolved nice and quickly then.
It’s certainly not the first time Facebook has gotten into hot water over privacy – and MT will eat its hat if it’s the last.
Here is a quick rundown of the social networks previous privacy indiscretions:
Facebook Beacon
This was one of Zuckerberg’s first forays into the world of advertising. Launched in 2007, Beacon was a system which posted your spending activity on third-party sites such as Blockbuster and Gamefly, on your Facebook profile without your permission.
Suffice to say it didn’t go down too well. Facebook settled a class-action lawsuit in relation to the product, shut it down completely in 2009 and decided to establish a $9.5m ‘settlement fund’ to take care of initiatives relating to online privacy.
In April 2012, Facebook forked out a hefty $1bn to buy Instagram, a photo sharing site. Sure enough, it wasn’t too long until privacy became an issue for the app, when in December 2012 its terms and conditions were changed.
The new set of rules gave Instagram ‘perpetual rights’ over the images posted by users, meaning they could be sold to advertisers without the consent of the users. Cue uproar and a very fast amend by Instagram, which stated users do in fact own the photos, not Instagram.
Private messages on Timeline
In September 2012, some Facebook users woke up to find their private messages, sent between 2007 and 2009, were clearly published on their Timelines, for all of their friends to see.
Understandably, there was something of a kerfuffle. Those affected by the change, were able to go and change their settings to remove the messages, but not before their friends had a chance to read the messages – some sent in private for a reason.
Facebook Graph
Rolled- out since the beginning of this year, Facebook Graph lets users search for particular topics or social interests, and get responses based on the ‘likes’ or posts of their friends.
Due to the fact that it makes it easier for people to unearth content or information about people, privacy questions have followed. It has been called the ‘ultimate stalker search engine.’
The graph is still up and running so anyone concerned should look at their privacy settings and make sure they are happy with what is searchable.

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