Facebook Won’t ‘Like’ FTC Inquiry on Privacy

Some people believe that with Social Plug-ins and the “Open Graph,” Facebook  is overreaching. One of those people is now NY Senator Charles Schumer.

For quite some time I’ve been saying and speculating that if “the industry” isn’t careful the regulators will spring into action. Today Senator Schumer called on the FTC to create guidelines and regulate social networking privacy, motivated apparently by Facebook’s Open Graph announcements last week.

Here’s an excerpt from Schumer’s letter:

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to provide guidelines for social networking sites, like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter on how private information submitted by online users can be used and disseminated. Schumer’s call to the FTC comes on the heels of recent reports that Facebook has decided to provide user data to select third party websites and has begun sharing personal profile information that users previously had the ability to restrict access to. These recent changes by Facebook fundamentally change the relationship between the user and the social networking site. Previously, users had the ability to determine what information they chose to share and what information they wanted to keep private. Recent policy changes are fundamentally changing that relationship and there is little guidance on what social networking sites can and cannot do and what disclosures are necessary to consumers.

Under new policies, users must go through a complicated and confusing opt-out process to keep private information from being shared with third party websites. Additionally, Facebook has also created a new system whereby ‘interests’ listed by users on their personal profiles are automatically aggregated and shared as massive web pages. Users used to have the ability to keep this information private if they chose. These new common interest pages are a gold mine of marketing data that could use by used for spam and potentially scammers, intent on peddling their wares.

Schumer and his staff may or may not fully understand what Facebook is trying to do or the benefits the company asserts it’s providing to users and publishers. But this should be taken seriously and could be the beginning of a long-anticipated move into online privacy regulation by the feds.

The IAB (and Facebook itself) should head this off at the pass with voluntary moves and clearer disclosures.

3 Responses to “Facebook Won’t ‘Like’ FTC Inquiry on Privacy”

  1. Tim Cohn Says:

    I am not so sure any new data will become quite the goldmine Schumer and his staffers believe but one thing is certain – without new forms of personalized user data Facebook’s advertising sales figures and the company itself will remain… private.

  2. Onlinehandyman Says:

    Makes you feel like nothing is private any more. FB used to be a social networking site which meant that you could go there and do just that – socialize! Now they want to take that data and use it for their own benefit! And have you ever tried to opt out of a site??? This may be the beginning of regulatory control, but you know who is going to loose in the long run – we are.

  3. Regulation Is Coming Internet Professionals « Screenwerk Says:

    […] I’ve been saying it for well over a year and Facebook may have been the final straw. The concern over privacy and user control raised in the wake of the Facebook “Open Graph” and Social Plugins initiative, as well […]

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