Facebook Won't Go To Congress' Teen Privacy Briefing

Facebook has turned down an invitation to appear at a December 14 congressional briefing on teen privacy, where the company were asked to discuss the company's recent settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.

Facebook has turned down an invitation to appear at a December 14 congressional briefing on teen privacy, where the company were asked to discuss the company’s recent settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.

The move by the social network is a head scratcher, since Facebook’s own Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg already discussed the FTC settlement in a blog post on the social network.

At the time, Zuckerberg said that Facebook is committed to giving its users “complete control” over what they share and with whom.

The company also agreed to 20 years’ of privacy audits, personnel appointments and the addition of new privacy features to the site, some of which had already been in place.

The offer to appear at the Capitol Hill briefing was extended by Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) and Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), co-chairs of the Congressional Privacy Caucus.

While Congressman Markey issued a brief statement the day that Facebook’s agreement with the FTC was finalized, applauding the move, the caucus co-chairs have frequently criticized the company in the past for not going far enough in protecting consumers’ privacy.

Perhaps Facebook didn’t see any value participating in the briefing when the issue with the FTC had been settled. It’s likely the litany of alleged privacy violations made by the government would only be re-hashed.

The congressional chairmen were quick to express their disappointment today. In a letter (reproduced beneath this post), Reps. Barton and Markey said:

Given Facebook’s widespread use by children and teenagers, as well as its recent settlement with the FTC over privacy violations, we felt that it was important for Facebook to participate in this briefing.

Facebook explained its decision in a statement:

Facebook is committed to continuing to offer easily accessible tools so people can control how they share information and with whom, In fact, over the last 18 months alone, we announced more than 20 new tools and resources designed to give people more control over their Facebook experience, many of which were described in a recent blog post by our founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. We communicate regularly with lawmakers about these issues and look forward continuing that productive dialogue.

The briefing will go on as scheduled on December 14. According to Chairman Markey’s web site, the hearing will discuss the “Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011,” legislation which would update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 and establishes new protections for the personal information of children and teens.

Apparently, Facebook is communicating with the committee about updating this legislation independently of the hearing occurring on December 14.

Do you think Facebook should participate in the congressional briefing on teen privacy?