After Twitter, Is Facebook Next On FTC's Privacy Agenda?

Turns out the Federal Trade Commission has spent much of the last year investigating Twitter for two securityglitches that resulted in hackers obtaining access to some users' names, passwords and private messages.

That probe, along with a formal FTC complaint, came to light today -- as did a settlement agreement in which Twitter promised to establish a comprehensive security program that will be assessed by an outside company every other year for 10 years. Twitter also agreed that it won't in the future mislead consumers about privacy in the future.

Twitter's general counsel, Alexander Macgillivray, said in a statement that the company settled because it wanted to "put the 11-month inquiry behind us." He added that Twitter has changed considerably since early 2009. "At the time of the incidents, we were a 22-person [and] a 40-person start-up, respectively; were in the midst of perhaps unprecedented user growth for an Internet company; and, didn't employ the security methods that we use today," he said.

Even though this settlement itself stemmed from unintentional leaks, the FTC's statement about the case could signal how the commission is viewing other privacy complaints -- especially onesregarding Facebook.

Consider, David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, seemed interested in sending a broad message. "Consumers who use social networking sites may choose to share some information with others, but they still have a right to expect that their personal information will be kept private and secure," he said in a statement about the case.

While that statement might not directly address recent Facebook actions -- like unilaterally deciding to tell third parties like Yelp the names of visitors who also use Facebook -- Vladeck's remark at least raises the possibility that the FTC is troubled by the social networking service's recent decisions.

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