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Major consumer groups call for government action over Facebook privacy changes

Six major consumer privacy groups are asking for government intervention in light of Facebook's proposed privacy updates.

In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, the privacy advocates argue that the changes will allow the social network "to routinely use the images and names of Facebook users for commercial advertising without consent."

Facebook's updated Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Data Use Policy come packaged with a number of required revisions to the company's governing documents, following last week's $20 million "Sponsored Stories" settlement.

Most notably, Facebook wants to turn users' profile pictures into an identification tool using facial-recognition technology for friends to tag users in photos.

"We are able to suggest that your friend tag you in a picture by scanning and comparing your friends' pictures to information we've put together from your profile pictures and the other photos in which you've been tagged," the new Facebook language says.

The facial-recognition tool, which scans uploaded images to suggest tagging, was a controversial addition to the site in 2010. But it came under intense fire from regulators in Europe, where it was suspended in September 2010.

Last week, Facebook revealed its suggested policy changes, which focus on clarifying key points — how details like users' names, profile pictures, and posted content may be used in connection with ads. According to the proposal, Facebook members basically sign away their name and/or profile picture to the site, which can, in turn, use them without compensation.

"It requires Alice In Wonderland logic to see this as anything but a major setback for the privacy rights of Facebook users," the privacy groups wrote in their letter.

Members of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), Consumer Watchdog, Patient Privacy Rights, US PIRG, and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse have come together to provide what they say is a necessary voice for consumers.

"We urge you to act. The right of a person to control the use of their image for commercial purposes is the cornerstone of modern privacy law," the coalition told the FTC in its letter.