Facebook seeks to meet with US senator on privacy issues

Social network had requested a meeting before Sen. Schumer held news conference today

Executives at Facebook Inc. say they have so far been unsuccessful in efforts to meet with a U.S. senator who has been publicly pushing the social networking site to revise its privacy policy.

A source close to the situation told Computerworld today that Facebook contacted the office of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) last weekend and today seeking to set up a meeting to discuss his concerns about the privacy of user information on social networks.

Schumer's office has not yet responded to the request, though he held a news conference this afternoon and again called on the social networking site to change its privacy policy and better safeguard users' personal information.

On Monday, Schumer released an open letter urging that the Federal Trade Commission set up privacy guidelines for all social networking sites, including Facebook and rivals Twitter and MySpace.

Schumer has not responded to Computerworld 's request for comment on his concerns about social networks.

At the news conference on Capitol Hill today, Schumer was joined by Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) in the effort to get Facebook to change its privacy policy so users' personal information is protected unless he or she specifically says it can be shared with other Web sites.

The privacy hubbub comes on the heels of Facebook's unveiling last week of a bevy of tools aimed at extending the social networking leader's reach across a greater expanse of the Web. The new tools will enable user information to be shared by Facebook and other Web sites.

The four legislators also sent a letter to Facebook that the social networking firm said was received this morning.

"While Facebook provides a valuable service to users by keeping them connected with friends and family and reconnecting them with long-lost friends and colleagues, the expansion of Facebook - both in the number of users and applications - raises new concerns for users who want to maintain control over their information," the senators wrote in the letter addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. "We look forward to the FTC examining this issue, but in the meantime we believe Facebook can take swift and productive steps to alleviate the concerns of its users."

Elliot Schrage, Facebook's vice president of communications and public Policy, told Schumer in an e-mail sent today that he's eager to discuss the company's privacy policy with the senator.

"Indeed, Facebook is desgined to give people the tools to control their information online and our highest priority is to keep and build the trust of the more than 400 million people who use our service," Schrage said in the e-mail. "These new products and features are designed to enhance personalization and promote social activity across the Internet while continuing to give users unprecedented control over what information they share, when they want to share it, and with whom," wrote Schrage. "

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld . Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin , or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com .

Read more about web 2.0 and web apps in Computerworld's Web 2.0 and Web Apps Knowledge Center.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
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