Senator Chuck Schumer (D—NY) has urged the Federal Trade Commission to get tough on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, over their privacy policies. Schumer said the FTC ought to regulate how these popular websites use and disseminate private information about their users. What's this all about?

What does Sen. Schumer want?
The New York senator is asking the FTC to draw up guidelines for social networking sites to regulate how they use private information. In a letter to the government watchdog, Schumer said: "It's vitally important that safeguards are in place that provide users with control over their personal information to ensure they don't receive unwanted solicitations." Schumer says all such sites should be regulated, but targets Facebook in particular.

Facebook has reportedly begun sharing user data — such as personal profile information — with third party organizations. This move, says Schumer, will "fundamentally change the relationship between the user and the social networking site."

Can't you alter your privacy options on Facebook so your information isn't shared?
You can, but Schumer says the site's privacy controls — under which a user must opt out from exposure to third parties rather than opt in — are deliberately misleading. "This opt out procedure is confusing, unclear, and you might even say hidden," he said. That's why he's calling for standardized guidelines.

What does Facebook say about all this?
Facebook's public policy communications manager Andrew Noyes says the website's executives were "surprised" by Schumer's comments and "look forward to sitting down with him" to clear things up. "Facebook's highest priority is to keep and build the trust of the more than 400 million people who visit our service every month," Noyes says. "To do so, we've developed the most powerful tools of any major internet company to give people control over what information they want to share, when they want to share it and with whom."

Sources: ABC News, The Hill