Policing privacy on the Internet and Facebook

As a good rule of thumb, assume any information posted on social media will be harvested like a veal calf headed for sale on a digital town square.

Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reminded us all of that pipeline in announcing it was looking into Facebook’s new privacy policies.

Those polices — unveiled just before Labor Day weekend, when presumably few would be paying attention — made clear that Facebook considers signing up for its service is de-facto consent to resell users’ data to advertisers.

The FTC, on the other hand, considers that a potential breach of a 2011 regulatory agreement, which requires Facebook to get explicit consent from users. Facebook, which has a troubling record of eroding privacy standards, looks like it tried to slip one past consumers.

Thank goodness someone is looking, because the vast majority of consumers are not. The boilerplate legalese of online contracts is scrolled past, in search of the quick “Agree” button.

Facebook isn’t alone. Since 2011, Google, MySpace and Path social-networking sites all have settled FTC charges that the companies duped consumers regarding privacy policies.

A digital thumbprint is easily left but nearly impossible to erase.

It will get even more difficult to erase with advances in facial-recognition software, which suggest a future in which embarrassing “selfie” photos are instantly matched to LinkedIn business profiles and Facebook “likes” for lingerie manufacturers.

In a Slate essay, writer Amy Webb described her aversion to posting any pictures of her child. ...

That future is hypothetical. Facebook, and other social-media companies, can ensure a present modicum of privacy. Signing up for a Facebook account is not an invitation to harvest our lives for sale on the town square of digital advertising.

— The Seattle Times,

Sept. 15

More

What others say: Sessions out of touch

Our nation is in the grips of an opioid epidemic unlike anything we’ve seen before. Just a few short years ago, heroin was thought to... Read more

What others say: Gorsuch a qualified candidate

After two days of often hostile hearings, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is proving himself an even-tempered, deeply knowledgeable nominee who should be confirmed by... Read more

Despite hardships, Alaskans should continue to Pick.Click.Give

Making end-of-year contributions is a given for many American families these days, and their philanthropic spirit is to be commended. Here in Alaska, however, we... Read more

Op-ed: Skinny but overweight

It’s called a “skinny budget,” because it’s just a president’s blueprint for where the federal money goes, and it doesn’t get into details. Those will... Read more

Around the Web