Schumer Joins Facebook Critics

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has added his voice to the growing roster of people criticizing Facebook for violating users' privacy with its new so-called "instant personalization" feature, which shares users' data with outside sites.

In a statement issued this weekend, Schumer criticized Facebook's new open graph, while also calling on the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit Facebook and other sites from sharing information about users without their permission.

In this instance, Schumer is absolutely right. The FTC should investigate Facebook -- and should make clear that automatically logging users into third party sites violates every expectation people have about how Web companies will treat data.

As with the doomed Beacon program, Facebook launched its new personalization feature on an opt-out basis: Users who are logged in to Facebook when they visit certain sites will automatically share their names, photos, list of friends and other information those sites. The initial outside partners approved by Facebook are Microsoft Docs, Pandora and Yelp; apparently the recent wave of lawsuits accusing Yelp of "extortion" by asking companies to pay ad fees to bury bad reviews didn't change Facebook's opinion that the service is trustworthy. (Yelp denies the allegations.)

For its part, Facebook is continuing the hard sell of its new personalization. In a post today addressing the "amazing response" to its latest changes, product manager Austin Haugen urged users to refrain from opting out of the data-sharing. "We hope you'll give these new social and personalized experiences a try..." he wrote.

A Facebook spokesperson adds that the company has "added new and easy controls" to help users opt out.

Clearly, however, Facebook doesn't want people to do so. Consider, Facebook has made the maddening decision to require users to opt out four separate times. First, users must visit their Facebook settings and uncheck the allow-personalization box. Next, users who want to prevent the sharing of their information by friends, must visit another section of Facebook's settings and block Microsoft Docs, Pandora and Yelp separately.

Presumably as Facebook adds new partners, users will have to revisit their settings and opt out yet again.

Facebook's approach has been troubling since the day the company first hinted at the personalization program. Now that more details are known, it's still as creepy as ever.

1 comment about "Schumer Joins Facebook Critics".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Theresa m. Moore from Antellus, April 27, 2010 at 2:17 p.m.

    I had signed on with Facebook to promote my books at the urging of others who sang the site's praises. I was there for a few months when I realized that it was probably the worst place to reach readers. When I learned that my personal information would no longer be private, I signed off again. The only way to rationally deal with this issue is simply NOT to use Facebook as a tool for promotion of any kind, and remember that it started out as a personal communications medium for person-to-person contact.

Next story loading loading..