FTC Goes After Jerk.com For Unauthorized Use Of Facebook Users’ Personal Data

By David Cohen 

JerkCom650Calling someone a jerk is rude to start off with, but launching a since-shuttered website that collected personal information from Facebook users was definitely a jerk move in the eyes of the Federal Trade Commission, as CNET reported that the FTC filed a complaint against Jerk.com Monday.

According to CNET, the site currently occupying the Jerk.com URL is not the one being targeted by the FTC.

The commission alleged in its complaint, as reported by CNET, that Jerk.com — created by Napster Co-Founder John Fanning — illegally tapped into Facebook users’ personal information to create profiles and have its users label the subjects of these profiles as “jerk” or “not a jerk.”

Those subjects were then told they had to pay $30 for “premium” features in order to dispute the jerk tags, according to the FTC complaint.

The commission said in its complaint, as reported by CNET, that more than 73 million people had their personal information displayed on Jerk.com between 2009 and 2013, adding that Jerk.com misled users into thinking its profiles were created by other users, when it was actually improperly tapping into Facebook’s application-programming interfaces.

The FTC said it seeks to eliminate deceptive practices by Jerk.com, prevent the site from using personal data, and force it to delete data it has already collected, adding that an evidentiary hearing before an administrative law judge has been scheduled for Jan. 27, 2015.

Facebook learned of Jerk.com’s activities in March 2012, CNET reported, and it disabled the applications the site had created to collect user data, as well as issuing a cease and desist letter and cooperating with the FTC. A spokesperson for the social network told CNET:

We take breaches of our terms seriously. We applaud the FTC and will continue to work with them as they pursue Jerk.com and others that seek to abuse people who use our service.

FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Jessica Rich said in a statement, as reported by CNET:

In today’s interconnected world, people are especially concerned about their reputation online, and this deceptive scheme was a brazen attempt to exploit those concerns.

Readers: Do you know anyone who was a victim of Jerk.com?