Conn. AG happy with Facebook's changes

Bryan Cohen Jul. 26, 2011, 1:58pm


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen applauded Facebook on Tuesday for making it easier for users to report imposter profiles and for providing opt-out instructions for new features.

Facebook worked with attorneys in Jepsen's office to address privacy concerns and other issues Jepsen brought up in letters last month and in February.

"Facebook has made significant changes that will provide better service and greater privacy protection to its users, not only in Connecticut, but across the country," Jepsen said. "The company has been cooperative and diligent in its response and I look forward to working with them in the future to make sure Facebook users' privacy is protected, which I believe is our shared goal."

Jepsen expressed concern last month that consumer privacy was being compromised by Facebook's "Tag Suggestions" feature, which uses facial recognition software to make photo-tagging simpler, because users weren't given adequate notice of the feature or the instructions and the ability to disable it easily.

The company has developed online Tag Suggest ads in response. The ads link users to their privacy settings and allow them to opt out if they choose. A round of ads that ran earlier this month resulted in over 400 million Facebook impressions on the home pages of U.S. Facebook users. A second campaign began Tuesday and will cycle on those home pages for the next two weeks. Facebook anticipates that every user of the service in the U.S. will see the new ad at least twice during this period.

"For any users who opt out, any facial recognition data collected will be deleted," Jepsen said.

Facebook assured Jepsen that it was not using the information for marketing or commercial purposes and that the biometric data was secured and could not be used by private individuals to gain access to other user information. The company also added new links and language to one if its user contact forms and automatic e-mail response to help direct users to the correct reporting mechanism when trying to report an imposter or fake profile.

Jepsen raised this issue in February after Rep. Kim Rose, D-Milford, complained about her difficulty in trying to contact the company to shut down an imposter profile of her that was fraudulently soliciting money.

The changes made should ensure that Facebook users who initially go down the wrong path to report an imposter account do not continue down the same mistaken route. Facebook has created a "roadblock" system that keeps an account from being used until it is verified as authentic after it has been reported as fake. Facebook has also improved how quickly it is able to respond to reports of fake or imposter accounts.

In addition, the company has activated a specific link on its "report abuse" prompt for complaints that a profile is "impersonating someone or is fake." Also, "impersonation" has been added to a drop-down menu to report "bullying or harassing" complaints.

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