Four senators ask Facebook to make privacy fixes to new features
They object to the social networking site sharing users' personal information with other websites without the explicit consent of the users.
April 27, 2010|By Jessica Guynn, Reporting from San Francisco
Four senators ask Facebook to make privacy fixes to new features - Los Angeles Times
Lawmakers and privacy watchdogs are asking Facebook Inc. to roll back a new feature that they say invades the privacy of the popular online social network's more than 400 million users.
Adding to controversy over the new feature, four U.S. senators objected Tuesday to Facebook sharing users' personal information with other websites without the explicit consent of the users. They want Facebook to ask users to "opt into" the feature that personalizes content on three other websites rather than "opt out" of it.
"Social networking sites have become the Wild West of the Internet," Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a letter he wrote Tuesday with three other senators — Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Al Franken (D-Minn.). The letter was addressed to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. "The innovation they represent is welcome but users need to have the ability to control their private information and fully understand how it's being used."
A privacy watchdog group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, also said it was preparing to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The group is calling for greater scrutiny of how Facebook uses the data that the privately held company has amassed over its six-year history and for clearer privacy guidelines for all social networks.
Google Inc.'s launch of social networking service Buzz and Facebook's recent moves have intensified the public debate over online privacy. They have drawn scrutiny from regulators in Europe and Canada.
"Facebook has to address privacy on a global scale. It's part of the burden it carries to achieve what it wants to achieve," Forrester Research analyst Augie Ray said.
The privacy blowup comes as millions of people share a wealth of personal information with an ever expanding network of friends, giving social networking sites enormous reach and moneymaking opportunities. Yet there are no guidelines for what sites like Facebook can do with that information.
A Facebook spokesman said Tuesday that the Palo Alto company gave users unprecedented control over their data and that it only shared what they have agreed to make public. He said Facebook was also strict about what information it allowed other websites to access.
"Our highest priority is to keep and build the trust of the more than 400 million people who use our service," Facebook Vice President Elliot Schrage said in a letter to Schumer.
More links on the subject:
Facebook slammed over privacy concerns - San Jose Mercury News
US senators demand Facebook privacy changes - Telegraph
Facebook privacy: Bloggers on 'instant personalization' and the blurred line between public and private on the internet | NJ.com