CBSN

Facebook on D.C. hot seat over kids' privacy

Facebook representatives were slated to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday about children's online safety.

As CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes reports, the issue's been a hot topic as social networking sites become a bigger part of Americans' lives.

Special section: Eye on Parenting
Special section: Back to School

The appearance by Facebook officials follows one last week by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, who also met with members of Congress about privacy issues.

Anytime you go online or use your cell phone, there's a good chance that someone, somewhere is sharing your personal information with a stranger.

"There's a lot of tracking of where you surf on the Internet," says former Clinton White House adviser Peter Swire. "Lots of different advertising networks and other people are keeping track of that. There's nothing illegal about it, and that troubles many lawmakers."

"We shouldn't be debating this," contends Rep. Ed Markey (D, Mass.), who chairs the Congressional Privacy Caucus. He's introduced legislation to prevent companies from sharing personal information on children.

"It's just about making sure kids get to grow up in an electronic oasis that does not come back to haunt them and their families," Markey says.

But many tech companies and social networking sites fear too much regulation could get in the way of new technology and put the U.S. behind the tech curve.

"The trick," says Swire, "is not to legislate around a particular technology, because the technology will be different the next year and the year after that. The trick is to somehow get some basic rules of the road and not to close down particular technologies."

With so much at stake, Google spent more than $2 million to lobby Congress just in the first quarter of this year.

Facebook, which has struggled with privacy issues, has added two familiar Washington faces - Erskine Bowles, who was a chief of staff for President Clinton, to its board of directors, and former Clinton Press Secretary Joe Lockhart, as an executive.

  • Nancy Cordes On Twitter»

    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.