Today during a press conference, Senator Charles Schumer of New York and a number of other Democratic Senators announced that they would like Facebook to make their new “Instant Personalization” service “Opt-In” rather than “Opt-Out” by default. While the new service accounts for only a portion of Facebook’s new features, it’s appearing as though this could rapidly turn into Facebook’s second Beacon moment.
The issue surrounds Facebook’s decision to automatically share your data with select partners (currently limited to Docs.com, Pandora.com, and Yelp.com) the moment you visit the site. Rather than forcing you to click a “Log In With Facebook” button, Facebook automatically shares basic information about you. While there remains to be confusion surrounding the multiple services launched by Facebook at last week’s developer conference, Facebook could soon have to back down from this new trial service.
Facebook has tested opt-out services in the past, including Beacon, a program which automatically shared web activity of users and published the information to a user’s profile, often without their permission. Eric Kuhn of CNN published a letter from Facebook’s Vice President of Global Communications, Elliot Schrage to the Senators which included the following statement:
Specifically, these new products and features are designed to enhance personalization and promote social activity across the Internet while continuing to give users unprecedented control over what information they share, when they want to share it, and with whom. All of Facebook’s partner sites interact with a user’s consent.
Despite Facebook’s argument that users provide consent to the partner sites, the Senators are essentially demanding that Facebook make the service opt-in. While this call is part of a broader push for clarification surrounding user privacy rights, the new privacy request is specifically for Facebook.