Napster co-founder John Fanning operated Jerk.com as a way to label people as a ‘Jerk’ or ‘Not a Jerk.’ But the website and Fanning came under fire when the Federal Trade Commission alleged that they dishonestly harvested Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) users’ public information and photos to label them a ‘Jerk’ or ‘Not a Jerk.’ More than 73 million Facebook users have fallen victims to its improper harvesting tactics.
How Jerk.com operators obtained Facebook data of millions
Regulators said that Jerk.com violated the FTC Act by misleading people that their content was created by other Jerk.com users, even though most of it was stolen from Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) profiles without users’ consent. What’s more, victims were falsely told that they can revise their ‘Jerk’ or ‘Not a Jerk’ status by paying $30 and becoming a premium member of the website.
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It would harm the reputation of people because the descriptions would appear in online search results. In the modern world, people are concerned about their online reputation. Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said that Jerk.com’s scheme was an attempt to exploit users’ concerns. To obtain Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) user data, Jerk.com operators allegedly built apps that could download the names, photos, and other public information of millions of people.
Facebook cooperating with FTC
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) noticed the violation of its terms of service by Jerk.com in March 2012. The social networking giant then disabled some of Fanning’s apps, and sent Jerk.com a cease and desist letter. Subsequently, the social networking giant began cooperating with the regulators in their investigation of Jerk.com.
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) spokeswoman Genevieve Grdina told Bloomberg Businessweek that the company will continue to work with the FTC as regulators pursue Jerk.com and other sites that abuse its users. The Jerk.com website under question is no longer in service. The current Jerk.com URL is not affiliated with the FTC’s complaint.
The FTC aims to bar John Fanning’s “deceptive practices”, and make Jerk.com delete all the harvested information.
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) shares inched up 1.16% to $57.61 in pre-market trading Tuesday.