Congress Tries to Censor Law Professor at Online Privacy Hearing

By Jason Beahm on December 16, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Is Facebook privacy for real? Or is it a joke?

A law professor certainly had some strong opinions on that question, calling the sight's privacy settings "mere deception," contending that Facebook "has uncontrolled access to everybody's data, regardless of the so-called 'privacy settings.'" So said Columbia University Law School professor Eben Moglen, who had been called before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, reports The Wall Street Journal.

He wasn't finished. Though he never blasted Facebook by name, at the online privacy hearing, the target of his comments was obvious:

"We already have a world where more than half a billion people put everything they say and do in one great big database owned by a single, for-profit business," Space said. "How much surveillance is socially tolerable? How much are we prepared to abandon our traditional understanding that what we do in our daily life is nobody's business except those with whom we choose to share?"

In a rare step, Rep. Zachary Space, an Ohio Democrat, asked Moglen to avoid personal attacks in his introduction. "But Congress tries to foster the highest level of decorum. I would ask you to avoid personal attacks against any companies or company employees," Space said, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Moglen was called to testify at the online privacy hearing on the topic of legislation that would force data companies and Web browser makers to provide a "do not track" option so that users could avoid having their online behavior tracked. The option was proposed by the Federal Trade Commission. Moglen said the do not track option should more accurately be titled, "do not surveil."

Facebook said that the company had seen a copy of Moglen's remarks, saying that the company was surprised with the comments. They have "nothing to do with the topic of a serious and important hearing," said Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes.

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