Marketing news: FTC settlement puts Facebook on privacy probation ’til 2031

by Karl Sakas on November 29, 2011

If you do online marketing, you should know Facebook just agreed to a 20-year Federal Trade Commission privacy settlement. The FTC found that Facebook made marketing promises the social network didn’t keep.

Working at a marketing agency that specializes in website usability, my favorite tidbit was in Mark Zuckerberg’s rebuttal blog post on November 29, 2011:

In the last 18 months alone, we’ve announced more than 20 new tools and resources designed to give you more control over your Facebook experience.

The Facebook CEO goes on to list some of the changes, like adding inline privacy controls to existing posts. Great, but if Facebook’s averages one new privacy-protection tool each month… how are users supposed to keep up the latest changes? That’s not good user experience.

I’m sure more than a few of Facebook’s 800 million users miss things along the way. Even if each new feature had a 90% adoption rate, only 12% of Facebook users would be using all 20 of those features. I’m sure the adoption rates are much lower — I can’t be the only person who hasn’t re-tagged all my friends to the Lists feature.

It’s disingenuous marketing for Facebook to tout that they’ve got a bunch of privacy features, when most people won’t actually use them. If I were to paraphrase Top Gun, “Mark Zuckerberg’s ego is writing checks his servers can’t cash.”

Marketers beware. I’m fascinated to see the FTC is requiring Facebook to get third-party audits for the next 20 years. Imagine that — Facebook will be guaranteeing its privacy practices to the government until 2031. Twenty years!

What do you think?

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