Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Facebook and the Future of Online Privacy

The EU has taken the lead in responding to abuse by the likes of Facebook, thanks to its new privacy standards and proposed greater taxation of peddlers of online personal data. Yet more is needed and feasible.

NEW YORK – Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, recently noted that the public scrutiny of Facebook is “very much overdue,” declaring that “it’s shocking to me that they didn’t have to answer more of these questions earlier on.” Leaders in the information technology sector, especially in Europe, have been warning of the abuses by Facebook (and other portals) for years. Their insights and practical recommendations are especially urgent now.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before the US Senate did little to shore up public confidence in a company that traffics in its users’ personal data. The most telling moment of testimony came when Illinois Senator Richard Durbin asked whether Zuckerberg would be comfortable sharing the name of his hotel and the people he had messaged that week, exactly the kind of data tracked and used by Facebook. Zuckerberg replied that he would not be comfortable providing the information. “I think that may be what this is all about,” Durbin said. “Your right to privacy."

Critics of Facebook have been making this point for years. Stefano Quintarelli, one of Europe’s top IT experts and a leading advocate for online privacy (and, until recently, a member of the Italian Parliament), has been a persistent and prophetic critic of Facebook’s abuse of its market position and misuse of online personal data. He has long championed a powerful idea: that each of us should retain control of our online profile, which should be readily transferable across portals. If we decide we don’t like Facebook, we should be able to shift to a competitor without losing the links to contacts who remain on Facebook.

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