Senator Asks FTC Intervention

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to provide guidelines for social networking sites on how private information submitted by online users can be used and disseminated.

“I am asking the FTC to use the authority given to it to examine practices in the disclosure of private information from social networking sites and to ensure users have the ability to prohibit the sharing of personal information,” reads a statement from Schumer’s office. “If the FTC feels it does not have the authority to do so under current regulations, I will support them in obtaining the tools and authority to do just that.”

Schumer’s letter was prompted by the new products and services unveiled by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the social network’s annual developer conference. The big showcase was the “Open Graph,” which aims to forge firmer channels of communication between multiple social-networking sites. In conjunction, Facebook rolled out “Instant Personalization,” which lets users easily share the bulk of their personal profile information with third-party companies.

According to Schumer, frequent changes to social-networking privacy policies can be extremely confusing for users. These recent changes fundamentally change the relationship between users and social networking sites.

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. 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.

“It’s vitally important that safeguards are in place that provide users with control over their personal information to ensure they don’t receive unwanted solicitations,” says Schumer. “At the same time, social networking sites need to provide easy to understand disclosures to users on how information they submit is being shared.”

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to provide guidelines for social networking sites on how private information submitted by online users can be used and disseminated.

“I am asking the FTC to use the authority given to it to examine practices in the disclosure of private information from social networking sites and to ensure users have the ability to prohibit the sharing of personal information,” reads a statement from Schumer’s office. “If the FTC feels it does not have the authority to do so under current regulations, I will support them in obtaining the tools and authority to do just that.”

Schumer’s letter was prompted by the new products and services unveiled by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the social network’s annual developer conference. The big showcase was the “Open Graph,” which aims to forge firmer channels of communication between multiple social-networking sites. In conjunction, Facebook rolled out “Instant Personalization,” which lets users easily share the bulk of their personal profile information with third-party companies.

According to Schumer, frequent changes to social-networking privacy policies can be extremely confusing for users. These recent changes fundamentally change the relationship between users and social networking sites.

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. 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.

“It’s vitally important that safeguards are in place that provide users with control over their personal information to ensure they don’t receive unwanted solicitations,” says Schumer. “At the same time, social networking sites need to provide easy to understand disclosures to users on how information they submit is being shared.”

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