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    Washington Post: FTC says it is creating Internet privacy framework amid growing concerns

    The Washington Post reports on a new undertaking concerning online privacy by the Federal Trade Commission. The agency “plans to create guidelines on Internet privacy, amid a growing cry by privacy advocates and lawmakers to protect consumers from abuse of their personal data by social networks, search engines and location tracking on cellphones,” according to the Post.

    The FTC’s announcement comes a few days after New York Senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer called for the agency to look into privacy and social-networking sites such as Facebook. “In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, Schumer expressed his concern about the collection and sharing of data on these social networking sites and the disclosure process by which users are notified that their private information is being shared. He noted there are no guidelines for user privacy on social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter and that ever-changing privacy policies adopted by networks are often confusing to understand,” Schumer said in a press release.

    FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz recently spoke with NPR about online privacy. He noted that there were benefits from targeted behavioral advertising of consumers, but said, “On the other hand, imagine that you were walking through a shopping mall and there was someone who walking behind you and taking notes on everywhere you went and sending it off to anyone who was interested for a small fee. That would be very disturbing, I think, to most people. To some extent, we see a version of that on the Internet, because information is taken from consumers.”

    The Post reports:

    “We agree that social networks provide a valuable consumer service, but that they also raise privacy concerns,” said Cecelia Prewett, a spokeswoman for the FTC, who declined to comment specifically on the senators’ complaints about Facebook. “The FTC is examining how social networks collect and share data as part of a project to develop a comprehensive framework governing privacy going forward. Our plan is to develop a framework that social networks and others will use to guide their data collection, use and sharing practices.”

    The complaints by the lawmakers, users and privacy groups have increased in recent months with the advent of new technologies like location-based services such as Foursquare, which allow sites to track users’ location and spending activity through cellphones. A change in privacy setting policies at Facebook late last year and a mishap on Google’s Buzz social network that exposed e-mail contacts to the public have added to concerns that users are flocking to these Web sites without a strong federal guardian of privacy.

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