Tuesday, April 27, 2010

More Sh***y Senators

Jesus S. Christos
! Carl Levin isn't the only Senator sticking his nose into the few thriving corners of the economy today. Senators Schumer, Begich, Bennet, and Franken have sent a letter to Facebook complaining about that site's privacy policy and connections to third party websites. Does any of this make sense? Senators' Letter To Facebook

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.

Pretty strong words from four guys who just voted for Obamacare, a bill that will - if it survives - give the government unprecedented free rein to interfere in every American's health and medical care. Here's is one of their complaints:

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.


(As an aside, I want to say to any would be tech entrepreneurs out there: if you find yourself at the head of a billion dollar start-up, you might as well re-register as a Republican now. You might think Democrats are hip and innovative - hey, Al Franken was on Saturday Night Live! - but they are the only ones on the political spectrum who think nothing of sending out pompous letters of "concern" to private entities)

(Also as an aside, there's something about Facebook that seems to bug the hell out of certain people.)

Why in the world do these guys care? The Facebook "community" is known for bristling at that company's efforts to mine data from its users. There have been some pretty high profile cases where Facebook withdrew certain services after users complained that they didn't like how their personal data was being used/displayed. And, needless to say, Facebook membership is entirely voluntary. There are no Facebook "mandates," for example. You can join, quit, or not join at all. It's between you and Facebook, something the Facebook Four just can't seem to abide.

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