The Latest Case Against Facebook

On May 5, 2010, The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint with the FTC regarding Facebook’s privacy practices (or lack thereof).

The biggest two complaints, to my reading are that (1) Facebook unilaterally tried to convert some information previously designated as private to public; and (2) Facebook changed its developer data retention policy to allow developers to retain end user data indefinintely.

Neither of these changes benefits end users, no doubt. But, what I’m fascinated to see is that today, a mere 12 days after the complaint, the user experience is significantly different from the experience described in the complaint (notably, the experience is more protective of user’s data when compared against the experience described in the complaint).

The legal process is slow and cumbersome and using it to argue with a quick and nimble internet-based adversary is going to be frustrating, to say the least. However, where end users are concerned, perhaps the quick responsiveness of Facebook is a benefit. If enough people complain, they just roll out a fix, long before the Feds, or the courts order them to do so. Certainly, this means that the fix is likely to be on Facebook’s preferred terms, rather than what the court or Feds order, but isn’t a quick fix better than a long period of open sharing without a fix (when it comes to privacy)?

I’m not saying I approve of Facebook’s most recent blunders. But, I do applaud of their quick “opt-in” and “opt-out-of-all” additions after the complaint about the blunders. And, I’m fascinated to see how or where the law fits in this world where the facts upon which any legal claims may be based are so ephemeral.

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