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Facebook said ready to wave white flag on privacy

Facebook is nearing a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to let users of the social network opt-in to its sharing privacy settings, rather than opting out.

What this would mean is that people using Facebook would not be sharing any content submitted to the social network with anyone by default. They would need to check off a particular setting in order to make something 'Public'.

News of the proposed deal was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Facebook would be required to submit privacy audits for the next twenty years, similar to the concession made by Google when it was investigated by the FTC back in March. The Journal also says that if the settlement gets approved by the FTC's commissioners, Facebook would need to get explicit consent from its 800 million users before changing its privacy settings.

The settlement stems from an FTC investigation dating back to December 2009. Facebook made dramatic changes in its privacy settings that led to parts of users' Facebook pages, such as profile pictures and other personal information, being shown to the public.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his top lieutenant Sheryl Sandberg discussed privacy during an hour-long interview with PBS' Charlie Rose that aired earlier this week. Both execs insisted in the interview that the company was putting a priority on user privacy.

When Rose noted that the company's privacy policies are of particular concern since it has so much personal information about people, Zuckerberg parried that there was a big difference with other big Internet companies: He said that users volunteer their personal information on Facebook compared to other networks that put together information profiles on about people "behind your back." "It's less transparent than what is happening at Facebook," he said.

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