This post was written by Alysa Z. Hutnik.

On Tuesday, April 26, 2010, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it intends to develop Internet privacy guidelines. The guidelines will examine social networking sites’ data handling practices and create a framework to guide social networks and others going forward. Given the FTC’s recently concluded Privacy Roundtables (see our posts here, here and here) and pending action items from the roundtables, the guidelines for social networks may provide a foundation for further FTC privacy guidance for businesses down the road.

The FTC’s recent announcement follows complaints by US and international lawmakers and regulators regarding the privacy practices of several online companies. Senators Schumer (D-NY), Franken (D-MN), Bennet (D-CO), and Begich (D-AK) sent a letter to Facebook, expressing concern about the changes Facebook made to its privacy policy that make more user information publicly available, permit third parties to store users’ information indefinitely, and allow for Facebook technology to be integrated with other websites. The Senators also called on the FTC to issue rules or guidance in this area. As noted previously, international regulators also recently sent a letter to Google expressing concern about its privacy practices.

While privacy laws have been in flux for some time, these events underscore how rapidly the regulatory environment for online businesses is changing, and a close watch on the FTC’s actions and guidance will be critical to navigate the compliance road ahead.