|April 28, 2010|
|Applaud Schumer for Facebook Privacy Call|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|Facebook's PR guru Elliot Schrage says his social networking site agrees that scrutiny is needed over the handling of personal data supplied to it by its 400M users. Amen, to that. |
Schrage stated his view in response to New York Senator Chuck Schumer's call for the Federal Trade Commission to provide guidelines on how sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter use and distribute private info.
That move follows word that Facebook plans to provide user data to select third party websites and has begun to share personal profile that users previously could restrict access to. Schumerís letter to the FTC is signed by Democratic Senators Al Franken (MN), Mark Begich (AK) and Michael Bennett (CO).
Schumer's request to the FTC comes as the federal agency wrapped up its first investigation into the murky world of bloggers hawking products and receiving "under-the-table payments."
The FTC took no action against retailer Ann Taylor, which invited bloggers to a special event in January and promised to enter the names of those who provided positive coverage into a "mystery gift card drawing," offering cards from $50 to $500.
The FTC had expressed concern that bloggers did not tell that that gift cards were attached to their praises of Ann Taylorís Loft division. The FTC says it decided to take no action because only a few bloggers wound up writing wrote about the event and several of them made the gift card disclosure.
To its credit, Ann Taylor told bloggers to go public about the gift cards. A probe of a high-profile retailer like Ann Taylor sends a powerful message that the FTC patrolling the beat.
Schumer is concerned that Facebook has a "system where 'interests' listed by users on their personal profiles are automatically aggregated and shared as massive web pages." He sees a "gold mine of market data that could be used for spam and potentially scammers, intent on peddling their wares." A key group at risk: people over 55 who are not online sophisticates. That group is Facebookís fastest growing market.
The Senator is a big fan of Facebook and its ability to "reconnect old friends, allow families from far away to stay in touch, create new friendships and overall provide a great new way to communicate." He just wants provide users with "control over their personal info and easy to understand disclosures to users on how information they submit is being shared."
Schumer sounds pretty reasonable. Facebook and the rest of the social media crowd should wholeheartedly support Schumer and urge the FTC to draw up guidelines. The social media world will flourish in an environment of transparency and openness.
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