Senators call on Facebook to protect user privacy

They want Facebook to add better safeguards to user information

Three U.S. senators are holding a press conference today in an attempt to push Facebook to change its privacy policy and better safeguard users' personal information.

U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) plan to release a letter they wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging the company to revisit its controversial announcement last week to share user information with third-party Web sites. The senators will release the letter at a 12:15 p.m. EST press conference.

A spokesman from Schumer's office said the senators will be calling social networking sites the Wild West of the Internet.

Andrew Noyes, a spokesman for Facebook, said in an e-mailed statement to Computerworld this morning that the social networking company is looking forward to starting a dialogue about its privacy policy.

"We appreciate the concerns raised by Sen. Schumer and expect that further dialogue with interested members of Congress about the user controls that accompany the tools announced by Facebook last week will alleviate any concerns they may have," Noyes said.

The press conference comes a day after Schumer asked the FTC to set privacy guidelines for social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

In the letter, the senator asked the FTC to set guidelines for how information posted on social networks can be used and disseminated. Schumer focused his letter on Facebook's move to release developer tools and other features designed to help the site pass user information back and forth between other Web sites.

"Hundreds of millions of people use social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter every day," Schumer said in a statement yesterday. "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. At the same time, social networking sites need to provide easy-to-understand disclosures to users on how information they submit is being shared."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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