The Secure Times

An online forum of the ABA Section of Antitrust Law's Privacy and Information Security Committee

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Representatives Markey and Barton Send a Letter to Facebook over Announced Feature

Representative Edward Markey and Representative Joe Barton, Co-Chairmen of the Congressional Privacy Caucus, sent a letter on February 2nd to Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, requesting information about Facebook’s announcement on January 14 that it plans to make its users’ addresses and mobile phone numbers available to third-party web sites. The feature would make a user’s address and mobile phone number accessible to external web site application developers, but not a user’s friend’s addresses or mobile phone numbers

Facebook then announced on January 17 that it decided to delay this new feature, after having received “some useful feedback that [Facebook] could make people more clearly aware of when they are granting access to this data.” Facebook is currently making changes to the feature “to help ensure [users] only share this information when [they] intend to do so.”

The letter asks several questions about the feature:

The First question asks Facebook to describe whether any user information in addition to address and mobile phone number would be shared with third party applications developers, and also to describe whether such information was shared prior to the January 17 announcement of the suspension of the feature.

The Second question asks Facebook to describe what user information will be shared with third party applications developers once the feature is again implemented.

The Fourth question asks Facebook to describe the process which led to the suspension of the program.

The Sixth question asks Facebook to describe Facebook’s internal policies and procedures for ensuring that this feature complies with Facebook’s privacy policy.

The Eighth question asks whether users who had opted in to sharing their addresses and mobile phone numbers will be able to have this information deleted by third party applications or web sites.

The Ninth question asks Facebook whether Facebook’s privacy policy would have been violated if this feature would have been implemented.

The Tenth question asks Facebook if, given the sensitivity of personal addresses and mobile phone numbers, Facebook believes that opt-in should be clearer and more prominent.

Representative Markey said that “Facebook needs to protect the personal information of its users to ensure that Facebook doesn’t become Phonebook." Representative Barton said that “The computer – especially with sites like Facebook – is now a virtual front door to your house allowing people access to your personal information. You deserve to look through the peep hole and decide who you are letting in.”