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University of Minnesota law professor William McGeveran studies privacy law and says Facebook could do better to protect users' privacy online.

U of Minnesota expert says the FTC should establish rules for Facebook and other social media

Rules will benefit users, social marketers and even Facebook, law professor says

May 10, 2010

Four U.S. Senators recently voiced concerns about Facebook making changes to how private/personal data is shared through the popular social networking site. New Facebook policies allow entities to see personal information previously viewable only by the user's friends. The senators say that Facebook should provide users with simpler privacy controls.

A University of Minnesota expert who can discuss the issue is:

William McGeveran, associate professor of the University of Minnesota Law School

(Note: To view and embed a video interview with McGeveran discussing Facebook and privacy law, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMVpUPmzD4U)

Chief among critics’ concerns is Facebook sharing its users’ information with other websites. “Facebook is starting with a few sites, but naturally wants to spread its vision of interactive sharing throughout the Internet. The senators hope to establish some rules of the road in these early days of social media. They are looking for ways to define true consent and assure users real control over their information,” McGeveran says.

Many people believe that the Federal Trade Commission should set forth some guidelines and McGeveran agrees.

“I think the FTC is a natural place to work on those rules,” McGeveran says. “I actually believe clear rules for authentic consent will benefit everyone in the long run, including marketers. I’m not sure Facebook sees it that way.”

McGeveran is the author of "Disclosure, Endorsement, and Identity in Social Marketing," an article specifically covering the issues of privacy and the role of the FTC within social networking sites such as Facebook, published in the December 2009 issue of the University of Illinois Law Review.

He specializes in information law, including intellectual property, data privacy, communications and technology, and free speech. His current research focuses on digital identity and data privacy, disclosure rules and norms in areas such as open records laws, and fair use and the public domain in trademark and copyright law.

McGeveran has served as a resident fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, and also has experience working on Capitol Hill, including three years as an aide to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

To interview McGeveran, contact Patty Mattern, University News Service, mattern@umn.edu or (612) 624-2801 or Cynthia Huff, Law School, at huffx070@umn.edu or (612) 625-6691.

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit www.unews.umn.edu. Views expressed by experts do not represent the views of the University of Minnesota.

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audioU of M Moment (audio) - Facebook privacy

videoWhere do we draw the privacy line on Facebook? 

Where do we draw the privacy line on Facebook?

Related Links

William McGeveran's faculty page

The Evolution of Facebook Privacy (interactive graph)

McGeveran on Facebook privacy (YouTube link)

PDF - "Disclosure, endorsement, and identity in social marketing" by William McGeveran (University of Illinois Law Review)