How much of the social network belongs on the Web?

If a social network is built around private lives, should that be part of the Web, or should it be a private network, accessible only with controls?

You know you're in trouble when Al Franken is going after you.

(Illustration by Zach Whittaker of ZDNet's iGeneration blog.)

Franken is one of several Democratic Senators whose names are on a "letter of concern" to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckenberg, warning that he needs to make opt-out the default for sharing personal information on users, and  limit personalization data shared with advertisers.

Facebook users across the ZDNet network are finding it impossible to control their privacy settings, even as Facebook adds office applications and gains new office credibility as an alternative to sites like Linkedin.

What has made Facebook jump the shark on privacy is Open Graph, which extends the site's reach across the Web but also increases privacy concerns. Whatever else I think of my friends, I don't necessarily want them to know what I'm doing online all the time.

While stopping for coffee just now, I watched CNN Internet correspondent Josh Levs complaining about Facebook privacy, saying  "Don't put anything on Facebook you wouldn't want your mother to know."

Fine, but a little late. Unlike Linkedin, which developed as a business service, Facebook developed in the teen market, and kids tend to open up more than their parents.

It's something we have been warning about at CBS Interactive for months. We all have public lives and private lives. If a social network is built around private lives, should that be part of the Web, or should it be a private network, accessible only with controls?

What's clear right now is that people are voting with their mice on this issue. One ZDNet writer has been busy "killing" friends from his links, thanks to a blizzard of spam. Another has revealed how Facebook doesn't delete user-created content even after being asked to do so.

Celebrities like Sen. Al Franken know how to keep their public and private lives separate. Kids don't. Facebook has been sold to kids for years. So should it pay a price for that, and be kept isolated from the rest of the Web, except with the express written permission of its users?

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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