EPIC Asks FTC to Investigate Facebook’s “Timeline”


Last year I wrote two blogs titled Spoliation of the Facebook Timeline and Frictionless eDiscovery; social media addicts beware…

which discussed the potential privacy problems with the new Facebook Timeline feature. Yesterday the blog site: The ESI Ninja Blog posted a blog about further developments around privacy and the Timeline feature. The below content is from that blog:

EPIC Asks FTC to Investigate Facebook’s “Timeline”

Posted on January 10, 2012 at 6:44 pm by John M. Horan

When Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook’s new Timeline feature at the company’s Sept. 22, 2011 f8 developer conference, he described it as “The story of your life . . . .  All the stuff from your life.”  According to a Sept. 22, 2011 Facebook Blog post,

The way your profile works today, 99% of the stories you share vanish. The only way to find the posts that matter is to click “Older Posts” at the bottom of the page. Again. And again.

. . .

With timeline [sic], now you have a home for all the great stories you’ve already shared. They don’t just vanish as you add new stuff.

The Timeline announcement came toward the end of an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission into Facebook’s privacy practices, culminating in the Commission’s Nov. 29, 2011 announcement that Facebook had agreed to settle FTC charges “that it deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.”  In general outline, the FTC said, the proposed settlement

bars Facebook from making any further deceptive privacy claims, requires that the company get consumers’ approval before it changes the way it shares their data, and requires that it obtain periodic assessments of its privacy practices by independent, third-party auditors for the next 20 years.

Three days before the Dec. 30, 2011 close of the 30-day comment period on the proposed settlement, privacy rights organization Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) urged the FTC to investigate whether Facebook’s new Timeline feature complies with the terms of the proposed settlement.  Echoing some of the concerns it raised in a Sept. 29, 2011 letter to the FTC regarding “frictionless sharing,” EPIC’s Dec. 27, 2011 letter to the FTC asked the Commission to: <the rest of the blog entry can be viewed here>

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2011 Seems to be the Year of On-Line Privacy Laws…Finally


One day after an internet privacy bill was introduced in the senate, one was introduced in the house. The senate bill called the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights introduced by Sens. John F. Kerry and John McCain includes measures to address consumer concerns that their sensitive data could be misused. The senate bill does not however include the “Do Not track” provision asked for by many. The unrestrained collection and sale of our data and on-line habits to retailers and others have raised wide concern.

The house bill, referred to as “the Consumer Privacy Protection Act of 2011” was introduced by U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns. The Stearns bill would require web sites to clearly state what personally identifiable information is being collected and how it is used. If a consumer opts out from having his information collected, the opt-out will last for five years unless the consumer changes his mind before then.

“The Consumer Privacy Protection Act of 2011” bill joins another House bill introduced in February by Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Democrat from California, that also targets privacy issues. Speier’s “Do Not Track Me Online Act of 2011” directs the FTC to develop a “do not track” mechanism that allows consumers to opt out of having their data collected, used or sold. The California State Legislature also is considering a bill at the state level that would give consumers more control over how their online behavior is tracked and shared with marketers and retailers.

What do these potential laws mean to consumers? Well, if one or more of them are finally passed into law, your electronic footprints, habits and on-line purchasing information will not be sold to organizations that you don’t know and don’t approve of. These types of laws need to be passed into law so the average consumer is not afraid to utilize all aspects and capabilities of our electronic frontier.