Social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr provide an unparalleled ability for people to stay connected in new and unique ways. In doing so, these websites have access to vast amounts of personal information and data about their users.
Facebook is by far the largest of these social networking sites, and starting with its ill-fated Beacon service privacy concerns have more than once been raised about how the ubiquitous social networking site handles its user data.
In my view, changing the ability of external websites to access private user information from opt-in to opt-out fundamentally changed the relationship between users and Facebook.
That's why I joined with Senators Chuck Schumer, Al Franken, and Mark Begich to write a letter to Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg that read in part:
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 biographic data of its users and provide them with full control over their personal information... 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.
This week, Facebook announced that it would "simplify" its privacy controls to give users more control over their information.
While I would still like Facebook to offer an opt-in policy for information sharing rather than an opt-out policy, I'm glad Facebook made these changes and appreciate their responsiveness to our letter. The new privacy controls are expected to be implemented over time, so I will continue to monitor the situation to make sure users stay in charge of how their private information is used.
As we all become increasingly reliant on social networking websites and new technologies to stay connected, it's important to remain cognizant of how private personal information and data is handled.
Michael Bennet is a United States Senator from Colorado. Join Michael's 2010 campaign today at BennetForColorado.com.