University of Minnesota law professor William McGeveran studies privacy law and says Facebook could do better to protect users’ privacy online. He says federal rules would benefit users, social marketers, and even Facebook. (Credit: U. Minnesota)

U. MINNESOTA (US)—Concerns about changes to Facebook policies regarding sharing user information have some asking if the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should set up social media guidelines to protect users’ privacy.

Chief among critics’ concerns is Facebook sharing its users’ information with other websites.

“Facebook is starting with a few sites, but naturally wants to spread its vision of interactive sharing throughout the Internet,” says William McGeveran, an associate law professor at the University of Minnesota.

Four U.S. Senators recently voiced concerns about Facebook making changes to how private and personal data is shared through the popular social networking site. New Facebook policies allow entities to see personal information previously viewable only by the user’s friends. The senators say that Facebook should provide users with simpler privacy controls.

“The senators hope to establish some rules of the road in these early days of social media. They are looking for ways to define true consent and assure users real control over their information,” McGeveran says.

He also agrees that the FTC should set forth guidelines.

“I think the FTC is a natural place to work on those rules,” McGeveran says. “I actually believe clear rules for authentic consent will benefit everyone in the long run, including marketers. I’m not sure Facebook sees it that way.”

McGeveran is the author of “Disclosure, Endorsement, and Identity in Social Marketing,” an article specifically covering the issues of privacy and the role of the FTC within social networking sites such as Facebook, published in the University of Illinois Law Review.

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