Should companies with social media pages be concerned with dissemination of  their information to other entities, such as current or potential competitors?

Some privacy groups think so, and warn that a user of popular social media site Facebook may well find his/her/its private data shared with an unexpected entity.

In Facebook, for example, this newly shared information could include historical data about visitors, usage, likes, and reposts.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (“EPIC”) and the Center for Digital Democracy issued an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, on November 27th, criticizing three proposed changes to Facebook’s governance policy as being against the interests of its users.

These changes were reflected in a November 21st post by Elliot Schrage, Vice President of Communications for Facebook.

Facebook’s first change dissolves the voting component of its site governance.  This voting system allows for user participation in proposed changes.

Specifically, if 7,000 users comment on a proposed change within 30 days, the change is subjected to a vote.

The second proposed change alters user control of associated Facebook email addresses.

At present, users may regulate who can send them Facebook messages via the “How you connect” menu. The proposed change allows “anyone on a message thread” to be able to reply.

EPIC believes this change is likely to increase the amount of spam users receive, which “violates users’ privacy and security.”

Finally, Facebook proposed to modify its Data Use Policy so that it may cross-share user information between current or future affiliates.

This change, for example, will affect users of Instagram, the photo sharing and social networking company recently acquired by Facebook.

Our readers are probably aware of Facebook’s 2011 Consent Order by the Federal Trade Commission, referenced in the

letter, prohibiting misrepresentation “in any manner, expressly or by implication, the extent to which [Facebook] maintains the privacy or security of covered information.”

Specifically, EPIC pointed to section II of the FTC’s order, which requires affirmative express consent of Facebook users prior to sharing non-public user information with a third party.

Seth Jaffe (, +1 713-651-5370) is an associate in Norton Rose Fulbright’s IP practice group.