US senators get testy with Facebook over privacy

Two more lawmakers are asking Facebook to change the way it shares personal information

Two more U.S. Senators have taken issue with Facebook's "opt-out" approach to recent privacy changes, asking the social networking site to change its ways.

Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) will join Charles Schumer (D-NY) in sending a letter to Facebook showing disapproval of the way the site shares information with third-party sites, the Washington Post reports. Schumer said yesterday that he's also asked the Federal Trade Commission to create privacy rules for social networking sites.

The lawmakers are concerned with Facebook's addition of new features that can only be disabled through a multi-step opt-out process. Users first have to tell Facebook not to share information with third-party sites like Pandora and Yelp, and then they must go to each individual site and block Facebook to prevent friends from accessing and sharing that information.

"Social networking sites are a Wild West of the Internet; users need ability to control private information and fully understand how it's being used," the Senators said in a press release.

I think Facebook deserves the scrutiny. The folks who say "if you don't like it, don't use it" underestimate or don't understand how important Facebook has become to people's lives. It's the second-most popular Web site in the United States. Even if you assume most people understand privacy changes when Facebook makes them--and that's a big assumption--it's not fair to ask them to leave if they don't like what's happening. People need to connect with other people, that's just human nature, and Facebook has created a system that's difficult to leave.

So, someone has to step in and make some rules to protect people's privacy. My issue with what our senators are doing is twofold: First, they're only targeting one site, and while it's the biggest target for all the reasons mentioned above, it's not the only one. Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Google Buzz could all use some rules on what can be shared without users' explicit, opt-in permission.

The other issue is that the senators are passing off the job to the FTC while hoping that Facebook makes some voluntary changes. Grandstanding isn't completely without merit, as it does draw attention to what social networking sites are doing, but ultimately there's a reason why senators are referred to as lawmakers.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Facebookinternet privacy

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?