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privacy practices

The internet is abuzz after pictures of Mark Zuckerberg emerged as we have never seen him before – topless and hanging out with a load of other topless guys.

TMZ posted the picture today which shows Mark Zuckerberg caressing his hairy – and quite buff – chest while obviously having a very good time cavorting with the other men.

The jury is out on what exactly is going on in the picture or where it was taken and Facebook have yet to respond to a request for comment.

The photo surfaced on the image-sharing site imgur, posted anonymously by someone who says they screen grabbed it from Facebook.

They claim the picture was “accidentally posted” by Facebook Director of Engineering Andrew Bosworth – who is seen also topless at the far right of the picture sporting a very masculine hat and bow tie combo.

Andrew Bosworth allegedly deleted the picture “seconds later”, but obviously not fast enough, as someone was able to capture it and make it available to the world wide web.

If this was an accident, many Facebook users will find something bitter sweet about the leak after Mark Zuckerberg and his team have repeatedly changed the site’s privacy settings over the years, which included claiming the rights to all pictures posted on the social networking site.

On the other hand, the picture isn’t going to do Mark Zuckerberg’s image any harm. After all appearing quite buff – for a computer nerd – hanging out shirtless with a few similarly shirtless friends shows the billionaire is just like everyone else, right?

Mark Zuckerberg caressing his hairy chest while obviously having a very good time cavorting with the other topless men

Mark Zuckerberg caressing his hairy chest while obviously having a very good time cavorting with the other topless men

Coincidentally, the picture has emerged on the same day the Federal Trade Commission voted to finalize its settlement with Facebook, resolving charges that the social network exposed details about users’ lives without getting the required legal consent.

Facebook Inc. didn’t admit wrongdoing, but agreed to submit to government audits of its privacy practices every other year for the next two decades.

The company also committed to getting explicit approval from users before changing the types of content it makes public.

The settlement, announced in November, is similar to agreements the FTC reached separately with Google Inc. and Myspace.

The FTC approved the settlement Friday after a public comment period. It came a day after the FTC fined Google $22.5 million to resolve allegations that Google didn’t comply with the earlier settlement.

Both Facebook and Google have vast amounts of data on their users – Facebook through the things people share on the site, and Google through the searches and other things people do.

Such information is valuable because it can be used to improve the lucrative targeted advertising pitches that both companies aim at users.

Over the years, Facebook has been pushing users to voluntary share more about themselves. That ultimately encourages users and their friends to spend more time on the site, which in turn allows Facebook to sell more ads.

Although Facebook boasts that it gives users a variety of software settings so they can decide which photos, links and updates to share with whom, the company changes those options on a regular basis.

Much of the FTC’s complaint against Facebook centers on a series of changes that the company made to its privacy controls in late 2009.

The revisions automatically shared information and pictures about Facebook users, even if they previously programmed their privacy settings to shield the content.

Among other things, people’s profile pictures, lists of online friends and political views were suddenly available for the world to see, the FTC alleged.

The complaint also charges that Facebook shared its users’ personal information with third-party advertisers from September 2008 through May 2010 despite several public assurances from company officials that it wasn’t passing the data along for marketing purposes.

Facebook believes that happened only in limited instances, generally when users clicked on ads that appeared on their personal profile pages.

Most of Facebook’s users click on ads when they are on their “Wall” – a section that highlights their friends’ posts – or while visiting someone else’s profile page.

Under the settlement, Facebook must get explicit consent – a process known as “opting in” – before making changes that override existing privacy preferences.

The company also may not make misrepresentations about the privacy or security of users’ personal information – a broad clause that led to Google’s fine on Thursday.

Violations will be subject to civil penalties of up to $16,000 per day for each infringement.

Facebook had no comment beyond a statement that it is pleased the settlement received final approval.

The company’s stock gained 52 cents, or 2.5%, to $21.53 in midday trading Friday. Facebook, based in Menlo Park, California, began trading publicly in mid-May, after the settlement with the FTC was reached.


Google Inc. has been fined $22.5 million by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for ignoring the privacy settings of customers using Apple’s Safari browser.

The staggering sum would be the largest penalty ever levied on a single company by the FTC.

But, with Google reporting a net income of $2.89 billion in the first quarter of this year, it would take just over 17 hours for the company to earn the amount to pay off the fine.

The fine was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which cited officials briefed on the settlement terms.

Google has been fined $22.5 million by the FTC for ignoring the privacy settings of customers using Apple's Safari browser

Google has been fined $22.5 million by the FTC for ignoring the privacy settings of customers using Apple's Safari browser

The charges involve Google’s use of special computer code, or “cookies”, to trick Apple’s Safari browser so Google could monitor users that had blocked such tracking, the newspaper said.

The tracking, which occurred on computers and iPhones, would have allowed the search engine to collect information on users’ preferences and search choices.

But Google disabled the code after being contacted by the Wall Street Journal, which first covered the story in February.

Staff at Google told the publication that tracking Apple users was inadvertent and did not cause any harm to consumers.

“The FTC is focused on a 2009 help center page. We have now changed that page and taken steps to remove the ad cookies,” Google said.

But the company’s practices sparked an investigation by the Trade Commission into whether it had violated an agreement signed last year.

In the 20-year agreement, Google said it would not misrepresent its privacy practices to users, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The penalty for violating this agreement is $16,000 per violation per day.

The code was spotted by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer. Advisers agreed that scores of ads on websites installed the tracking code.

Google also faces potential sanctions from other governments. It is being investigated by the European Union to determine if the company complies with Europe’s stricter privacy laws, the Wall Street Journal reported.