It turns out that no one likes invasions into their privacy. Not even Facebook.

Since the rise of social media, users have been struggling to strike a balance between sharing updates with friends and maintaining a degree of privacy. However, social media giants, such as Facebook, have made this balancing act all the more difficult with ever-changing and increasingly complex privacy policies. Privacy rights advocates have long bemoaned Facebook’s invade-first-ask-permission-later approach to users’ privacy, as seen with the advent of “Sponsored Stories” and facial recognition in photo tagging.

Ironically enough, the shoe is suddenly on the other foot. This time it is Facebook that is bemoaning an encroachment on its privacy. And the encroacher? Why, it’s none other than the National Security Agency (NSA). At a tech conference on Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg lamented the effects of the NSA’s surveillance program. Under the auspices of its surveillance program, PRISM, the US government has made tens of thousands of requests for information from social media companies.

In short, Facebook does not want the government invading the privacy of its users. That’s Facebook’s job.

And in an even sharper twist of irony, Facebook’s biggest concern with the NSA surveillance program is its lack of transparency. Since the information requests are related to matters of national security, companies are prevented by gag order from sharing any information about these requests. Ignoring the irony, Facebook filed a lawsuit on Monday against the NSA demanding transparency and insisting that the gag order be lifted. On its website, Facebook stated, “…today, we are joining others in the industry in petitioning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to require the government to permit companies to disclose more information about the volume and types of national security-related orders they receive.”

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, perhaps Facebook has learned just how bad it feels to have one’s privacy invaded. Perhaps not.

While beating back the encroachment of the NSA with one hand, Facebook has continued to exploit its users with the other. Last month, Facebook announced yet another less-than-transparent change in its privacy policy. While Facebook insists that the changes do not alter users’ rights, one US senator called it a “troubling shift in policy.” Many more privacy advocates stood in opposition to Facebook’s latest changes and described the new policy as enabling Facebook to “routinely use the images and names of Facebook users for commercial advertising without consent.”

Responding to these concerns,  the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced on Wednesday that it had begun an inquiry into whether Facebook’s new privacy policy was in violation of an earlier agreement with the FTC.

No matter the outcome of the FTC’s inquiry or the lawsuit against the NSA, it will at least be amusing to hear Facebook argue from both sides of its mouth.

photo by Enoc vt on Wikimedia