A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint filed in December is alleging that Facebook failed to protect private health information in its groups.
The complaint–which was recently made public–alleges that Facebook leaked data about individuals in their patient support groups. These groups are dedicated to providing a sense of community for those who share the same medical conditions. BRCA and NGLY1 community advocates helped file the complaint. BRCA is a genetic mutation that has been linked to breast cancer, while NGLY1 is a rare genetic disorder.
“Facebook offers the illusion of control but ignores and obscures privacy decisions,” the complaint said.
The complaint alleges that Facebook was deceptive in using the terms “safety” and “control” for its medical support groups while giving users the ability to download personal information about group members. Support group members could have their names, phone numbers and email addresses downloaded which would link them to specific medical conditions.
“Facebook abuses trust in the patient community in order to create a profitable product,” the complaint said.
Facebook stopped users from downloading data from medical support groups around that time. The company told the Verge that the ability to see someone’s data through groups was not a privacy flaw and that users had the option to join and create “secret” groups.
The FTC complaint is the latest in Facebook’s privacy battles. According to reports by the Washington Post, Facebook is currently in negotiations with the FTC over a multi-billion dollar fine for its privacy issues.