May 10, 2010
In the face of increased scrutiny of its privacy practices, Facebook has hired former U.S. Federal Trade Commission chairman Timothy Muris to defend the popular Web site's privacy practices in Washington, D.C.
Muris, who created the Do Not Call registry as head of the FTC, is expected to guide the social networking site through the FTC's growing scrutiny of the community of more than 400 million users. Just last week, advocacy group the Electronic Privacy Information Center, in partnership with 14 other consumer and privacy organizations, urged the FTC to investigate recent changes to Facebook's policies. The government is scrutinizing Facebook policies that automatically share account holders' information with other sites and that make more users' information public by default, not opt-in. As the site's popularity grows, Facebook also is becoming a more attractive target for hackers and cybercriminals. On Sunday, friends of Facebook board member Jim Breyer received a phishing email purported to be from the venture capitalist, according to peHUB. During his tenure at the FTC, Muris frequently addressed online privacy issues and was the sole witness at a November 2001 hearing on privacy organized by the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. "Despite the benefits of information sharing, concerns about privacy are real and legitimate. Many consumers are troubled by the extent to which their information is collected and used. Some feel that they have lost control over their own information. If you probe further, what probably worries consumers most are the significant consequences that can result when their personal information is misused," Muris told the subcommittee during the hearing. On Friday, Muris was named this year's recipient of the Miles W. Fitzpatrick Award for his "significant and lasting contributions to the FTC, antitrust law and the cause of consumer protection," according to O'Melveny & Myers LLP, where Muris was counsel and co-chair of the law firm's Antitrust and Competition Practice before joining Facebook. "As I recently told the Senate Commerce Committee, I am an FTC guy," Muris said during the award presentation. This is not the first time Facebook has bolstered its legal ranks. In March 2009, the $716-million company hired Tim Sparapani, formerly a lawyer with the American Council of Civil Liberties, as its director of public policy.
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