Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Sunday asking the agency to provide guidelines to social networking sites on user's private information.
As the Associated Press reported, the New York senator wants to ensure that private information submitted to the websites is not given away improperly to third parties.
The letter comes amid reports that Facebook has begun to provide user's information to third-party sites that users used to be able to prevent from being shared.
"Hundreds of millions of people use social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter every day," Schumer said. "These sites have helped reconnect old friends, allow families from far away to stay in touch, and created new friendships; overall they provide a great new way to communicate. As these sites become more and more popular, however, 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."
Facebook has over 400 million users and many lawmakers, campaigns and congressional committees use the site to share with users stances on legislation, information about district events and news articles they find interesting.
Many congressional offices have official Facebook sites that are linked from their websites. For example, here is the official page of Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.)
UPDATED 2:56 p.m.
Andrew Noyes, a spokesman for Facebook responded:
We were surprised by Senator Schumer’s comments and look forward to sitting down with him and his staff to clarify.
Facebook’s highest priority is to keep and build the trust of the more than 400 million people who visit our service every month. To do so, we’ve developed the most powerful tools of any major Internet company to give people control over what information they want to share, when they want to share it and with whom.
Last week, we announced several new products and features designed to enhance personalization and promote social activity across the Web. None of these changes removed or reduced people’s control over their information and several offered even greater controls. For example, we announced a new tool to give users much greater ability to restrict the information they share with applications and third party websites. We introduced new ways for websites to let Facebook offer personalization without the need for any user information to be shared with the site itself.
We also announced a small pilot program with three well-known and respected partners — Microsoft, Pandora and Yelp — to provide additional personalization on their sites, based on information that is already publicly available. These partners were carefully chosen, reviewed, and are contractually required to respect users’ privacy preferences. Additionally, they are required to provide an easy and prominent method for users to opt out directly from their website and delete user data if users choose do opt out. Facebook and its partner sites have also added new and easy controls to help users manage their experiences when they visit these sites.
We think these programs will make surfing the web a smoother and more engaging experience for people who use Facebook while honoring the trust we’ve been given."