Facebook Once Again on FTC's Radar

Facebook Once Again on FTC's RadarOn Monday, the controversy swirling around Facebook intensified with regard to its proposed $16 billion acquisition of mobile message giant WhatsApp.

Over the weekend, the director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection issued a message to Facebook. It came as a stark reminder of the social media behemoth’s obligations to protect the privacy of its users.

“In a letter to the two companies,” NativeMobile reported yesterday, “Bureau Director Jessica Rich noted that WhatsApp has made clear privacy promises to consumers, and that both companies have told consumers that after any acquisition, WhatsApp will continue its current privacy practices.”

An excerpt from the letter reads:

We want to make clear that, regardless of the acquisition, WhatsApp must continue to honor these promises to consumers. Further, if the acquisition is completed and WhatsApp fails to honor these promises, both companies could be in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act and, potentially, the FTC’s order against Facebook.

As report author Randy Dahlke notes, in 2011, Facebook settled FTC charges that it deceived consumers by failing to keep its privacy promises. Under the terms of the FTC’s order against the company, it must get consumers’ affirmative consent before making changes that override their privacy settings, among other requirements.

The letter adds that before making any material changes to how they use data already collected from WhatsApp subscribers, the companies must get affirmative consent, Dahlke explains.