Facebook Inc. has agreed to settle an investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission into deceptive privacy practices, committing to cease making false claims and to submit to independent audits for 20 years.
The FTC said the world’s largest Internet social network had been repeatedly deceptive. For example, Facebook promised users that it would not share personal information with advertisers, but it did, the agency said.
Also, the company failed to warn users that it was changing its website in December, 2009, so that certain information that users designated as private, such as their “Friends List,” would be made public, the FTC said.
“Facebook’s innovation does not have to come at the expense of consumer privacy,” FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement.
Under the settlement, which must be approved by an FTC administrative law judge, Facebook is barred from being deceptive about how it uses customers’ personal information, and is required to get permission from customers before changing how personal information is shared.
Facebook, which has more than 800 million users, has often been criticized for its privacy practices.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and chief executive officer, said in a blog entry on Tuesday that he is “committed to making Facebook the leader in transparency and control around privacy.”
He said the company is creating two new corporate privacy officers.
The settlement follows a similar agreement in March between the FTC and Google Inc. over the Web search leader’s rollout of its own social network called Buzz.
In 2010, the FTC settled charges with Twitter, after the agency alleged that the social networking service had failed to safeguard users’ personal information.