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Facebook face-off: Should government regulate your privacy?


Facebook Photo Credit: Getty

The day may come when Facebook receives a friend request from the FCC — and it may have no choice but to accept.

The social network’s latest privacy gaffe resulted in tens of millions of users unknowingly sharing personal data with advertisers. The blunder has some experts suggesting the time has come for the government to regulate privacy on Facebook.

“Until now Facebook has regulated itself, [but] if it were doing enough, we wouldn’t see privacy problems arise again and again,” said Ginger McCall, an assistant director with the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

“What really needs to be done here is to create strong federal privacy laws that provide safeguards for users,” she added.

In the newest controversy, popular third-party apps including Farmville violated policy and transmitted data to advertisers, including user IDs and, in at least with three app providers, the names of friends.

ACLU fellow Chris Conley said Facebook needs to better watch third-party developers.

Media critic Jeff Jarvis, however, said the privacy issue is being made to look “dastardly,” when really it’s business as usual for companies.

“I think we’re seeing a media mania about privacy,” he said. “If we do nothing but talk about privacy, we risk losing the benefits we have on the Internet to connect with each other, like Facebook.”

Facebook wouldn’t comment, but said in a blog post that most cases were unintentional, and that reports “have exaggerated the implications” of the breach.

But tech start-up CEO Dan Yoder said the privacy problem might result in regulation akin to that of the telephone network, adding that government fines would tie privacy to Facebook’s bottom line.

Some Facebook users would welcome that regulation.

“Government should definitely step in to control the use of personal data,” said Quincy Leon, 22, of Pelham.

But for others, the breaches are no big deal.

“I really don’t care, as long as they don’t sign me up for the Army,” said Adam Alexander, 19, of Bushwick.

(With Sheila Anne Feeney and Heidi Lee)


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