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Facebook Will Reportedly Shift Privacy Policy To 'Opt In' — Not 'Opt Out'

Facebook moving toward changing its policy about privacy settings, abandoning an "opt-out" approach for one in which its members would have to "opt in" to allow strangers to see personal information stored on their profile pages, according to reports.

The shift is seen as a response to the Federal Trade Commission's accusation that the social media network deceived its members when it changed its policies in 2009.

Neither the FTC nor Facebook has commented on or confirmed the possible settlement, which was first reported in The Wall Street Journal. Citing people "familiar with the situation," The Journal reports:

"The proposed settlement – which is awaiting final approval from the agency commissioners – would require Facebook to obtain 'express affirmative consent' if Facebook makes 'material retroactive changes,' some of the people said."

The Los Angeles Times has confirmed the report — and noted that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg discussed privacy at length during a recent interview conducted by Charlie Rose, on PBS.

On its website, Facebook has long offered ways to customize one's privacy settings. But many users complained that requiring people to tighten privacy settings after their information had been revealed on the Internet was like closing the door after the digital horse had run out of the virtual barn.

The settlement would likely end the FTC's case that began back in 2009, when Facebook made large portions of its members' profile pages public --- including photos, personal data and lists of friends — until they changed their settings to hide those elements.

When it took effect, the change even sparked a short series of reports here at NPR, called The End of Privacy.

As Todd Wasserman writes at Mashable, "Under the agreement, Facebook would need to submit to independent privacy audits for 20 years, according to the report. Google agreed to similar terms in March, when it settled with the FTC" over concerns about its "Buzz" feature.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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