Facebook users who want their photos and online information kept private might have had their privacy violated when the company made recent changes to its website, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
"We're monitoring compliance with the order and part of that involves interacting with Facebook," said Peter Kaplan, spokesperson for the FTC.
On Aug. 29, Facebook clarified in its update that it retains the right to use images and information about its users in advertisements on its website. Facebook has approximately 1.1 billion users.
"We routinely discuss policy updates with the FTC, and this time is no different," said Jodi Seth, spokesperson for Facebook. "Our updated policies do not grant Facebook any additional rights to use consumer information in advertising. Rather, the new policies further clarify and explain our existing practices. We take these issues very seriously and are confident that our policies are fully compliant with our agreement with the FTC."
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., sent a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez on Wednesday asking the commission to examine Facebook's changes for possible privacy violations.
"Teens, often impressionable and still developing and learning safe online habits, are especially vulnerable," Markey told Ramirez in his letter.
If Facebook were found in violation of the 2011 settlement with the FTC, the company could potentially face huge fines, which would be based on the number of U.S.-based Facebook users affected and the time they were affected by the violations, said Ashkan Soltani, an independent technology consultant. Facebook could face large fines in that scenario because its policy changes affect hundreds of millions of Americans, said Soltani, who investigated Facebook's consumer privacy as a staff technologist at the FTC in 2010 and 2011.
"Being under settlement with the FTC is like being on probation, and you have to take extra steps to protect consumer privacy," Soltani said of Facebook's 2011 settlement with the FTC.