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Privacy groups challenge Facebook data policy changes

Two privacy advocacy groups wrote a letter [text, PDF] on Monday to Facebook [corporate website] CEO Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to withdraw recently announced proposed changes [press release] to the site's governance documents. The letter, signed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) [advocacy websites], noted that some of the changes directly affected the company's privacy policy, and that the changes "raise privacy risks for users, may be contrary to law, and violate your previous commitments to users about site governance." The groups expressed their concerns over Facebook's plan to discontinue its user-voting method for site-wide policy changes, a system enacted in response to privacy complaints filed by EPIC in 2009. The letter also discussed Facebook's plan to share user data between various business entities, claiming that such a move may violate a settlement [JURIST report] last year with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website]. The proposal discussed in the letter was released on the evening before a long holiday weekend in the United States.

Privacy concerns remain a significant as websites grow in complexity, and the data about individual users they possess becomes more interconnected. In August German data privacy authorities reopened [JURIST report] an investigation into facial recognition software used by Facebook that automatically recognizes facial features in pictures. In February the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] dismissed a suit brought by EPIC, asking the FTC to block Google's [corporate website] proposed privacy policy changes [text]. Some commentators have noted that privacy regulations can be transnational [JURIST op-ed] and have effect beyond their immediate jurisdictional boundaries.

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About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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