Sen. Charles Schumer issued an open letter to the Federal Trade Commission April 26 asking the agency to create guidelines governing what social networks can do with information posted by users.
Schumer’s letter follows Facebook’s release April 21 of new tools that share user information between the social network and other Websites.
“Hundreds of millions of people use social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter every day,” Schumer said in a statement. “These sites have helped reconnect old friends, allowed 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,” he continued. “At the same time, social networking sites need to provide easy-to-understand disclosures to users on how information they submit is being shared.”
In addition to asking the FTC to establish guidelines, Schumer asked the commissioners to examine social networks to make sure they are fully disclosing the extent that user information is shared.
“I am asking the FTC to use the authority given to it to examine practices in the disclosure of private information from social networking sites and to ensure [that] users have the ability to prohibit the sharing of personal information,” he said. “If the FTC feels it does not have the authority to do so under current regulations I will support them in obtaining the tools and authority to do just that” by proposing legislation.
A Facebook spokesperson said the company was caught off guard by the senator’s remarks.
“We were surprised by Sen. Schumer’s comments and look forward to sitting down with him and his staff to clarify,” Facebook spokesperson Andrew Noyes said in a statement.
“Last week, we announced several new products and features designed to enhance personalization and promote social activity across the Web,” Noyes continued. “None of these changes removed or reduced people’s control over their information and several offered even greater controls.”