Weather Forecast


Franken joins other sens. in criticism of Facebook policy

WILLMAR -- Sen. Al Franken and several of his colleagues are asking Facebook to change a new policy that allows the sharing of personal information with third parties.

Facebook, a popular Internet social networking site, recently changed its privacy policy to set up a new Instant Personalization Program that would provide information to websites so that they could tailor their sites for individual users.

So far, Facebook shares information with three sites -- Microsoft, Pandora and Yelp -- through the new program.

Facebook automatically included all its users in the new program. Those who do not want their information shared must use a multiple-step process to opt out.

Franken and three other senators have written to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking that Facebook rethink the program. Joining the Minnesota Democrat in the letter were Sens. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska.

Franken conducted a conference call with Minnesota journalists Tuesday afternoon to talk about the Facebook changes and the threats to privacy.

"It's their responsibility to let their members know what they are doing," Franken said.

Asked if there was potential danger to users, Franken said the issue was "whether the person wants that (information) shared or not."

Younger users may be the most vulnerable if information is widely shared, Franken said. Facebook requires users to be 13 or older.

Younger teens might share something with a few friends but "things move beyond their control," he said.

Franken said users should have been notified before the change was made and allowed to choose whether they wanted to participate.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Schumer had received a written response from Facebook vice president Elliot Schrage, who said the company welcomes "a continued dialogue with you and others because we agree that scrutiny over the handling of personal data is needed as Internet users seek a more social and interactive experience."

If Facebook continues to change its rules to share personal information, "we can legislate this," Franken said. He said the situation could lead to guidelines to Internet privacy.

Facebook users may go to for information to learn how to opt out of the Instant Personalization Program. The Web site provides directions and links for each step.

Information from the Associated Press was included in this article.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340