Is the noose tightening around social networking site Facebook?
One week after N.Y. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo subpoenaed Facebook for information about its safety controls, his New Jersey counterpart, Attorney General Anne Milgram, on Oct. 1 subpoenaed the social site for names and e-mail addresses of any convicted New Jersey sexual offenders who may have profiles on the social networking site.
The subpoena, to which Facebook must reply by Oct. 12, was issued after Milgram sent Facebook a list of convicted New Jersey sex offenders last month to compare with its user profiles.
While Facebook, of Palo Alto, Calif., has told the state that it has identified and removed a number of convicted sexual offenders, the subpoena wants the social networking site to prove it. Like Cuomos subpoena, Milgrams asked Facebook to detail policies related to Internet safety and concerning minors use of the site.
Read more here about the N.Y. subpoena of Facebook.
"This is a matter of public safety, and more specifically, a matter of childrens safety," Milgram said in a statement. "Social networking sites should not be virtual playing fields for sexual predators."
Milgrams office, along with the N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs, in August asked a dozen sites to check user profiles against convicted sex offender lists. Milgrams office sent these social networking sites letters following up her request to determine whether registered New Jersey sex offenders had accounts on their Web sites, and asked those sites to detail what steps they had taken to identify convicted sex offenders.
While most of the sites have contacted the Attorney Generals office as they prepare their comparison reports, Milgram said she was prepared to use her subpoena power if information was not submitted.
The subpoena issued to Facebook is similar to the one her office issued to MySpace earlier this year. That social networking site subsequently identified 268 New Jersey registered sex offenders with MySpace accounts and eliminated the profiles.
At the least, the subpoenas temper the enthusiasm over rumors that Microsoft will buy a 5 percent stake in Facebook, valued somewhere between $300 million and $500 million.
Click here to read more about Microsofts interest in Facebook.
Facebooks subscriber base of more than 40 million, along with its open development platform, are alluring to vendors such as Microsoft and Google, which are trying to build Web platforms to get more programmer mindshare.
While most experts watching the space agree a stake or outright purchase of Facebook could be a game changer for the buyer, analysts also say the subpoenas could scare off serious suitors.
The privacy issues have existed virtually since the inception of social networking sites, which boast millions of users but are still struggling with how to keep their "walled gardens" of user information growing while weeding out bad seeds.
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