Dear Mr. Zuckerberg, From 4 US Senators



This just came across my view as posted on Politico.com. It’s a letter that is supposedly being sent by four Democratic US Senators to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO. I will let you read it and comment on it if you feel led. Considering the source it certainly is interesting.

April 27, 2010

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

We are writing to express our concern regarding recent changes to the Facebook privacy policy and the use of personal data on third party websites. While Facebook provides a valuable service to users by keeping them connected with friends and family and reconnecting them with long-lost friends and colleagues, the expansion of Facebook – both in the number of users and applications – raises new concerns for users who want to maintain control over their information. The following three changes have raised concerns:

1. Publicly available data. Facebook’s expansion of publicly available data to include a user’s current city, hometown, education, work, likes, interests, and friends has raised concerns for users who would like to have an opt-in option to share this profile information. Through the expanded use of “connections,” Facebook now obligates users to make publicly available certain parts of their profile that were previously private. If the user does not want to connect to a page with other users from their current town or university, the user will have that information deleted altogether from their profile. We appreciate that Facebook allows users to type this information into the “Bio” section of their profiles, and privatize it, but we believe that users should have more control over these very personal and very common data points. These personal details should remain private unless a user decides that he/she would like to make a connection and share this information with a community.

2. Third party data storage. Previously, Facebook allowed third-party advertisers to store profile data for 24 hours. We are concerned that recent changes allow that data to be stored indefinitely. We believe that Facebook should reverse this policy, or at a minimum require users to opt in to allowing third parties to store data for more than 24 hours.

3. Instant personalization. We appreciate that Facebook is attempting to integrate the functionality of several popular websites, and that Facebook has carefully selected its initial partners for its new “instant personalization” feature. We are concerned, however, that this feature will now allow certain third party partners to have access not only to a user’s publicly available profile information, but also to the user’s friend list and the publicly available information about those friends. As a result of the other changes noted above, this class of information now includes significant and personal data points that should be kept private unless the user chooses to share them. Although we are pleased that Facebook allows users to opt-out of sharing private data, many users are unaware of this option and, moreover, find it complicated and confusing to navigate. Facebook should offer users the ability to opt-in to sharing such information, instead of opting out, and should make the process for doing so more clear and coherent.

We hope that Facebook will stand by its goal of creating open and transparent communities by working to ensure that its policies protect the sensitive personal biographical data of its users and provide them with full control over their personal information. We look forward to the FTC examining this issue, but in the meantime we believe Facebook can take swift and productive steps to alleviate the concerns of its users. Providing opt-in mechanisms for information sharing instead of expecting users to go through long and complicated opt-out processes is a critical step towards maintaining clarity and transparency.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)

U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK)

U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN)

  • http://www.tuneyfish.com Scott Golembiewski

    There’s a fine line here, piss off or exploit your users and they leave. Don’t make money for investors they leave.

  • http://www.rypmarketing.com/blog/ Adam Thompson

    I’m not saying the letter might not make valid points, but don’t our Senator’s have more important things to do than complain about a website’s privacy policies? If users don’t like Facebook’s privacy policy, they can just quit using the site – nobody is making them use it.

  • http://www.inboundstop.com/ John

    I see what your saying. To be fair. Its not just a “site” I can’t give you exact numbers but, hundreds of millions of users, and over 3 billion users visited last month. Web privacy is also a huge issue these days. I totally understand where your coming from, but at some point I think there needs to be some restriction. Its tough for me to understand where people learn about these privacy issues if they don’t read SEO and social news like we do.
    .-= John´s last blog ..When Building Content for SEO, Cast a Wide Net =-.

  • Cheryl

    I really wish my government would get better focused on doing the job I hired them for and pay them for in the first place. In that list of things, Facebook and social media policy isn’t one of them. I mean, at some point, there is an element of “caveat emptor” in this that exists for those of us on Facebook or any social media site. And if the excuse is “what about minors” then my answer is “they have parents.” And if the response is “they haven’t got the time” then my response is “then they shouldn’t have had children.”

    While I appreciate their intent, I’m getting very very tired of the money and time being spent by me (via my taxes to the government) to protect me from … well me!

    When all of our other little problems get solved like global warming, lousy and expensive health care, crappy education, high insurance costs, dropping salaries, and world hunger get solved, then maybe they could deal with something like this when they got bored.

  • http://www.otrtiresupply.com OTR Tire Guy

    Cheryl,

    This is a fairly important issue, that has broad ranging social, legal, and criminal implications. How many times a day do users log into Facebook, or an affiliated site, for business, pleasure, or some other reason?

    Obviously, some of their constituents raised this issue, or they wouldn’t be aware of it. They certainly didn’t draft the letter, themselves. Probably written by a staffer or intern….Wait, Franken’s on there, he may have written at least a portion of this.

    They are doing the job someone is paying them to do, as they represent the constituents of 4 separate states. I am just upset there aren’t any Republicans who signed their names to this letter.

    This letter isn’t to protect you, from you. It’s written to protect all of us, from unknowing infringement of our privacy, and casually giving away our rights for a chance to play Mafia Wars.

  • http://www.GetFoundFirst.com Stuart Draper

    Politics. Politics. Politics.
    I am a huge advocate of privacy and the importance of “big brother” staying out of my life. I’m glad they care about our privacy, but wish they were more informed. Government moves so slow there is now way they can keep up with technology.
    .-= Stuart Draper´s last blog ..Google Rolls Out Remarketing =-.