New York Senator Charles Schumer and several other Democratic Senators held a press conference yesterday, expressing concerns about Facebook’s new features.
In particular, they want Facebook’s new “Instant personalisation” feature, which lets third-party sites use your Facebook info when you visit them, to become opt-in rather than opt-out. All Facebook has the story, and Politico has the full letter from the Senators.
The stakes are pretty high here: if the privacy concerns become too important, this could become yet another “Beacon moment” for Facebook, where they have to backtrack from and be massively embarrassed by a new feature which looks like it might infringe on people’s privacy. Facebook Beacon was a feature that would automatically share some of your purchases with your friends, and Facebook had to disable it fast after a massive user freak out.
On the other hand, this could merely be posturing by politicians wanting to look web-savvy and caring about their voters’ daily lives by making a big hoopla around Facebook’s new features. There doesn’t seem to have been a huge user backlash against Instant personalisation (yet). And even if there were, Facebook also has a history of keeping new features despite howls of protest, tweaking them, and then being proven right about them as the site keeps growing unstoppably like a weed.
In any case, privacy concerns will always be a problem for Facebook, as they need to use and share their trove of user data to monetise it in some way. Look for more stories like this in the future.
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