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House Committee Asks Professor to Censor Facebook Remarks

Published on December 3, 2010
by Jennifer Valentino-DeVries

In an unusual move, the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection asked a Columbia University Law School professor to censor his remarks in a hearing about online privacy legislation.

“We as members of Congress are never inclined to censor testimony in open congressional hearings,” Rep. Zachary Space, an Ohio Democrat, said when introducing the professor, Eben Moglen. “But Congress tries to foster highest level of decorum. I would ask you to avoid personal attacks against any companies or company employees.”

The hearing focused on the possibility of legislation requiring data companies and Web browser makers to provide a “do not track” tool allowing people to opt out of having their Web surfing tracked.

In written remarks submitted before the hearing, Mr. Moglen did not mention “do not track” but talked generally about online privacy. He criticized Facebook Inc. extensively, describing the social networking site’s privacy settings as “mere deception.” Facebook “has uncontrolled access to everybody’s data, regardless of the so-called ‘privacy settings,’” he wrote.

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