Four senators ask Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to reconsider his company's approach to privacy. Facebook meanwhile contends that its latest moves do not change user privacy protections at all.
Facebook has once again stirred up privacy concerns, this time in the
Several politicians joined forces April 27 to urge Facebook to change its
privacy approach to block third parties from accessing
with the users' consent. Sens. Charles Schumer,
Michael Bennet, Al Franken and Mark Begich announced at a news conference that
they had sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark
Zuckerberg asking the company to revisit its recently announced plan to make
user information accessible
on third-party sites via plug-ins.
Specifically, the senators requested that Facebook keep user
information private by default
and make sure it can only be shared with
third parties if the user opts in. However, Facebook contends that the tools it
introduced do not endanger
In a blog
Product Manager Austin Haugen explained the "social
plug-ins" the site introduced were designed so that the third-party sites
do not actually receive any information; instead, the plug-ins should be
considered an extension of Facebook.
"You only see a personalized experience with your friends if you are
logged into your Facebook account," Haugen wrote. "If you are not
already logged in, you will be prompted to log in to Facebook before you can
use a plug-in on another site. At a technical level, social plug-ins work when
external Websites put an iframe from Facebook.com on their site-as if they were
agreeing to give Facebook some real estate on their Website. If you are logged
into Facebook, the Facebook iframe can recognize you and show personalized
content within the plug-in as if the visitor were on Facebook.com
The plug-ins follow the same privacy settings as those that already exist on
Facebook, he continued.
"For example, you can control how information is shared on Facebook.com
on your Privacy Settings page under 'Posts by Me,'
and you can change which
connections are visible on your profile under 'Things I Like.'
... Remember that, even if
you change your settings for what is shared or shown on Facebook, likes and
recommendations made on other sites become publicly available information,
similar to a public comment on a Website," Haugen wrote.
Schumer wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission
April 26 urging
the agency to create guidelines governing how social networks such as Facebook
and Twitter can share information with other sites.
"Sites like Facebook have revolutionized the way we stay connected and
they provide a great new way to communicate," Schumer said in a statement
April 27. "But as these sites become more and more popular, it's vital
that users stay in control of their personal information so they don't receive
unwanted solicitations. The default policy should be one of privacy, and users
should have to choose to share their information, not the other way around."
This isn't the first time Facebook
critics have turned to the FTC.
In December, the Electronic
Center and several other
organizations joined together to file a FTC complaint protesting changes to
"It should not be a full-time job to adjust your privacy settings every
time Facebook thinks of a new way to share your information," Kurt Opsahl,
senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told eWEEK. "While
this is the type of situation that the FTC has the authority to regulate if it
finds Facebook's practices unfair or deceptive, the better solution would be
for Facebook to immediately take action to rectify the situation and give real
promises that give users the confidence it won't be repeated."