Online privacy advocates are getting some high-profile support.
This weekend, Senator Chuck Schumer asked the Federal Trade Commission to create guidelines for how user information is shared by online social networks. A bill with similar privacy-protecting goals was introduced in the House on Thursday.
The moves follow an ambitious attempt by Facebook to extend its reach over the Web, which has raised a new round of privacy concerns. But Facebook isn't alone. Blippy, a startup which allows users to share their purchasing histories online, apologized today for inadvertently making available users' credit card numbers and, last month, Google received flak from an FTC commissioner over how it handled privacy when unveiling its Buzz social network.
Schumer's recommendations to the FTC include encouraging social networks to let users opt in to privacy changes rather than forcing them to opt out. Facebook chose the latter route for its recent changes, forcing users to navigate a complicated process to undo them. (Here's a guide to doing so and a Facebook privacy primer.) Spammers and scammers could also solicit unsuspecting users by using data made available by the social network, Schumer said: "There are lots of things that you may have never wanted to go beyond your family and friends but do."