Legislators at the federal and state levels are urging social networking websites to enhance privacy protections available to their users. On April 27, 2010, four U.S. Senators wrote a letter to Facebook’s CEO expressing “concern regarding recent changes to the Facebook privacy policy and the use of personal data on third party websites.” The letter urged Facebook to provide opt-in mechanisms for users, as opposed to lengthy opt-out processes, and highlighted default sharing of personal information, third-party advertisers’ data storage and instant personalization features as three areas of concern.

The Senators’ letter to Facebook comes on the heels of New York Senator Charles Schumer’s April 26, 2010, letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to look into privacy concerns about the use and disclosure of personal data on social networking websites. Senator Schumer offered to “introduce appropriate legislation” that would give the FTC authority in “creating effective guidelines and protecting the privacy of online social network site users.”

At the state level, the California Senate passed a bill on April 22, 2010, that prohibits social networking websites from displaying, “the home address or telephone number of a registered user who identifies himself or herself as being under 18 years of age” to the public or to other registered users. Social networking websites that “knowingly and willfully” violate the provision can be fined up to $10,000 for each violation. The measure is currently being considered by the California State Assembly.