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Facebook Gets No Likes on Data Protection

Broadband providers calling for greater regulatory scrutiny of powerful edge providers such as Facebook appear to have a unique ally in their corner: Facebook.

The company continues to draw unwanted attention in Washington over its user data privacy protection practices, or lack thereof.

Both Democrats and Republicans were ganging up on the company after a June 5 New York Times report about its sharing of user data with device manufacturers and operating system companies, including some from China. Lawmakers wanted to know why Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg didn’t disclose the sharing earlier this year during House and Senate hearings on Facebook’s third-party data practices.

The House Energy & Commerce Committee signaled it was in the midst of an ongoing audit of Facebook data practices.

Facebook said it has a tightly controlled sharing system, meant to allow a Facebook-like experience on a variety of mobile devices and operating systems; however, the Times reported that some users, or friends of users, were unaware their information was being shared, or thought it was not being shared at all.

Cable broadband operators, with an assist from FCC chairman Ajit Pai, have said it is time that edge providers with much bigger market caps and dominant positions in online search start drawing the same regulatory attention that internet service providers have long been subject to, as the alleged snakes in the virtuous internet garden.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), ranking member of the powerful Energy & Commerce Committee, appears to agree. “It’s high time that Congress acts to provide all American consumers with the basic privacy protections that they expect and that they deserve,” he said of the Times story on the Senate floor.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.