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Yahoo jumps into social networking, using e-mail for sharing

In the paper today:

By Cecilia Kang

Yahoo plans to announce Tuesday that it is jumping into social networking by using its massive population of e-mail subscribers as a base for sharing information on the Web.

Over the next few weeks, its 280 million e-mail users will be able to exchange comments, pictures and news articles with others in their address books. The program won't expose a user's contact list to the public, as was done by Google through its social networking application, Buzz. Unless a user proactively opts out of the program, those Yahoo e-mail subscribers will automatically be part of a sweeping rollout of features that will incorporate the kinds of sharing done on sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

The plan could spark criticism from Yahoo e-mail users, who signed up for the free service perhaps never imagining the people they e-mailed would become friends for sharing vacation videos, political causes and random thoughts throughout the day. And the move comes amid growing concern by federal lawmakers and regulators over how firms such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft have handled the privacy of Internet users.

After backlash, Facebook last week announced new privacy tools to make it easier for users to block Web sites from tapping into their information, as well as a simpler way to configure who on the site can see personal data. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asked Facebook on Friday to explain what kind of user data it had shared with third-party sites. Conyers also asked Google to retain, for federal and state regulators, the data the company scooped off WiFi networks as it collected Street View mapping photos around the country.

To allay privacy concerns, Yahoo said it would give users a week's notice before launching the new features and provide a single button on the site for opting out entirely.

Read here for the full story.

By Cecilia Kang  |  June 1, 2010; 7:35 AM ET
Categories:  FTC , Privacy , Yahoo  | Tags: Facebook, Google, MySpace, Yahoo, e-mail subscribers, social networking  
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