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Consumers Union urges FTC to examine Facebook privacy controls, citing new CU research

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports, today is urging the Federal Trade Commission to examine the nonprofit organization’s research that finds Facebook’s privacy settings are still confusing and hard to use, despite the company’s promises to “put people in more control of their privacy” following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

In a letter to the FTC, the organization says CR researchers have found that the design and language used in Facebook’s privacy controls nudge people toward sharing the maximum amount of data with the company.  CR also found one privacy setting that works differently in the iOS and Android versions of Facebook’s app, and the iOS version could mislead consumers into believing that certain privacy protections are on when they are off. That could prevent consumers from making informed choices. The letter to the FTC states “our research found that Facebook uses [various] interfaces to steer users to the least private options when creating a Facebook account.”

Katie McInnis, technology policy counsel for Consumers Union, says, “We hope that our research encourages the FTC to look into Facebook’s ‘dark patterns’ and confusing default settings. Consumers should be able to easily control the data they share with Facebook, and unfortunately, we believe the process is too difficult for the average user. We think consumers can come away believing they have more control than they really do.”

The CR findings are being released today at the same time as research by the Norwegian Consumer Council, which reviewed the pop-up boxes announcing updated privacy policies that were displayed by Facebook, Google, and Microsoft in the wake of the recent rollout of the European Union’s new privacy standards.

Read more about CU’s research on Facebook privacy controls at ConsumerReports.org

Contact: David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org, 202-462-6262, ext. 7416


Consumers Union is the advocacy division of Consumer Reports, an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. From championing responsible auto safety standards, to winning food and water protections, to enhancing healthcare quality, to fighting back against predatory lenders in the financial markets, Consumer Reports has always been on the front lines, raising the voices of consumers.