Previously, Facebook users were able to select what information they wished to share or to keep private. Last week, however, Facebook decided to share information with third party websites. While users are able to opt out, the change in policy has set the default to the opt-in option.
The social networking site has a system that keeps a list of users’ interests, which is now automatically set to public and shared with countless marketers. This could result in a flood of inquiries from marketers and potential scammers.
Schumer says the opt-out procedure is “complicated, confusing, and you may even say hidden.”
“Hundreds of millions of people use social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter every day. 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 to provide users with control over their personal information to ensure they don’t receive unwanted solicitations,” Schumer said.
“At the same time, social networking sites need to provide easy to understand disclosures to users on how information they submit is being shared,” he added.
Schumer has written a letter to the FTC requesting that guidelines be drawn for the use and distribution of private information on social networking sites.
“While the online behavioral advertising industry has adopted a self-regulatory program created in concert with the FTC, there are no guidelines for user privacy on social networking sites including Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter,” Schumer wrote.
He asked that the guidelines include what social networking sites can and cannot do, how disclosure is provided, and a provision to enable the users to prohibit their private information from being shared.
“If the FTC needs additional authority in creating effective guidelines and protecting the privacy of online social network site users, I would be happy to introduce appropriate legislation,” he added.
Schumer said the three things he is asking for include changing the opt-out default to a choice to opt-in, disclosure of where the information is going, and guidelines for user privacy.