Federal Trade Commission: if Facebook cries, Twitter does not laugh

Earlier this week, Facebook settled with the Federal Trade Commission for ‘false and deceptive’ claims about privacy. Zuckerberg has admitted ‘high-profile mistakes’ in handling this matter, and agreed – for the future – to get consumer approval before changing privacy and sharing settings. Of course, there are plenty of ways to circumvent that. But one thing that is slightly harder to go around is 20 years of privacy audit. Yes: during the next two decades Facebook will have to undergo periodic evaluations of its privacy-related practices by third-party auditors. (Hell, that’s being awfully optimistic. Given the present social media bubble, we don’t even know if Facebook will be still around in 5, let alone 20 years…)

Of course Facebook is not the only Internet Behemoth the FTC has a beef with. A few months ago, the popular blue bird firm had to settle too – for failing to safeguard its users personal information. As a result, ‘Twitter will be barred for 20 years from misleading consumers about the extent to which it protects the security, privacy, and confidentiality’. Also, the company’s information security program will be assessed ‘by an independent auditor for 10 years’.

‘If Athens cries, Sparta does not laugh’, the old saying goes. And it seems so appropriate, if, instead of Greece (the cradle of democracy of the Ancient world) you think California, its social networking services, and their pretention of spreading democracy and freedom 140 characters at a time. Well, it seems that the FTC is making Californian Web 2.0 giants cry over the serious mess they have been making with their users’ data and right to privacy – while supposedly bringing down dictators and fighting human right abuses all over the world.