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Facebook Modifies Privacy Settings For State Governments

Colorado attorney general led coalition that faulted the social media site's terms of service for conflicting with state constitutions.

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Facebook on Wednesday confirmed it will amend its privacy settings to address complaints from attorneys general in several states around the country regarding conflicts between the site's terms of service and their state's constitutions.

Top legal officials in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington participated in negotiations with the social media giant, according to the Associated Press. Colorado's Office of the Attorney General began discussions with Facebook about a year ago when it found conflicts between Facebook's terms of service agreements and the state's constitution.

Changes include removing an indemnity clause that forced users to pay legal fees to Facebook for harm or loss, unless a state's constitution allows it, said John Suthers, Colorado attorney general. Other changes include the removal of a provision that requires that all disputes with Facebook be resolved in California courts; calling for the prominent display of a state agency's Web site on their Facebook page; and encouraging the amicable resolution of disputes, according to the AP.

"We look forward to continuing to work with Facebook and starting a new dialogue with the people of Colorado through the company's Web site. Social media is a great way to keep the public apprised of the important work we and other public entities do on behalf of the people of Colorado," Suthers said, in a statement.

After a year of studying the issue and the resolution with Facebook, Suther's agency now will establish a Facebook page, he said.

On April 13, 2010, Suthers' office instructed all state agencies and institutions of higher education to take down their Facebook pages "due to indemnity issues," according to Denver Westword. In a follow-up post, attorney general spokesman Mike Saccone said the concern revolved around Facebook's indemnity clause, which stated that the site was not responsible if one user initiated legal action against another user, Westword wrote.

"Indemnity clauses are very common," he said at the time. "We are seeking a resolution similar to what the federal government has with Facebook, in which the indemnity clause has been removed. It's not unprecedented, and the issue is not new by any means."

These latest changes are similar to those reached between Facebook and federal agencies in 2010, and they do not impact individual accounts, AP said. After federal agencies and Facebook resolved their concerns, 50 federal groups created hundreds of Facebook pages with millions of fans, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes told the AP.

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