Top lawyers from Facebook, Google and Linkedin said that there should be no rush to protect Internet users with government privacy regulations.
Erica Rottenberg, general counsel of LinkedIn, took the view held by the other large social media companies at a privacy conference in Berkeley today: trust us. And, really, who wouldn't trust a bunch big companies whose only way to make money is to use your personal information for advertising?
"People want to do the right thing by and large," Rottenberg said "There is self-regulation that is going on and there is marketplace policing going on."
The comments came at an Federal Trade Commission hearing on privacy and and social networking at Berkeley Law School Thursday.
Lawyers from civil liberties groups on the same panel called for the FTC to crack down on social networks that violate users' privacy.
"We've got to be more aggressive to acknowledge the roles of regulators to protect people," said Lillie Coney, of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
A snit arose between Chris Conley, an ACLU lawyer, and Tim Sparapani, a Facebook lawyer and former ACLU lawyer, about just how much Facebook is doing to protect its users privacy.
Conley brought a petition with him, signed by 50,000 people, he said, attacking Facebook for its privacy settings. He plopped the thick stack of papers during the discussion. The gripe? Facebook's new privacy settings have created an "app gap." Conley says it means that third party applications — like those little quizzes about what Disney princess you're most like — get access not only to your info (age, gender, etc.) but all your friends' info that use the default privacy settings on Facebook.
"There is no option to opt out that my friends get shared with the application," said Conley.
Sparapani turned to pleasant metaphors to demonstrate Facebook's commitment to privacy: "We are a walled garden in the sense that we never ever sell data to third parties," he said.
Dennis Yu, CEO of BlitzLocal, an online ad company, said that third party apps might not exactly share that same commitment: There's always "a few bad apples that will sell completely against the terms of service."
— Zusha Elinson
Ed. Note: Coincidentally(?), today is the third annual Data Privacy Day.