Company plans to re-launch feature enabling users to share personal information with third parties   
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), Co-Chairmen of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to respond to questions about the company’s proposed plan to make users’ addresses and mobile phone numbers available to third-party websites and application developers. This latest announcement comes after Reps. Markey and Barton previously wrote to Facebook about a Wall Street Journal report that companies operating on the site were accessing users’ personal information without their knowledge or consent.  Reps. Markey and Barton received a response from Facebook in fall 2010 in response to their inquiry. Facebook announced on January 14, 2010 that it would temporarily suspend and then soon re-launch a feature to enable its users to share more of their personal information, potentially including their addresses and mobile phone numbers, with websites and third-party application developers.

Facebook needs to protect the personal information of its users to ensure that Facebook doesn’t become Phonebook," said Rep. Markey. "That’s why I am requesting responses to these questions to better understand Facebook’s practices regarding possible access to users’ personal information by third parties. This is sensitive data and needs to be protected.” 
“Facebook’s popularity has made it a leader in innovation and we hope they will also be a leader in privacy protection,” said Rep. Barton. “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
Rep. Markey, a senior member and former chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communications, Technology and the Internet Subcommittee, is the House author of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Markey plans to introduce legislation early this year that will include a 'Do Not Track' requirement so that kids do not have their online behavior tracked or their personal information collected or profiled.
In their letter today, Reps. Markey and Barton ask Mr. Zuckerberg to respond to questions that include:

  • Would any user information in addition to address and mobile phone number be shared with third party application developers under the feature as originally planned, and was any of this information shared prior to Facebook’s announcement that it would suspend implementation of the feature?
  • What user information will be shared with third party application developers once the feature is re-enabled?
  • What was Facebook’s process for developing and vetting the feature referenced above before the feature was suspended, and what was the process that led Facebook to decide to suspend the rollout of this feature? What is the process Facebook is currently employing to adjust the feature prior to re-enabling it?
  • What are the internal policies and procedures for ensuring that new features developed by Facebook comply with Facebook’s own privacy policy, and does the company consider this a material change to its privacy policy?
  • What consideration was given to risks to children and teenagers posed by enabling third parties access to their home addresses and mobile phone numbers through Facebook when designing the new feature?
  • What are the opt-in and opt-opt option for this new feature?
  • Why is Facebook, after previously acknowledging in a letter to Reps. Markey and Barton that sharing a Facebook User ID could raise user concerns, subsequently considering sharing access to even more sensitive personal information such as home addresses and phone numbers to third parties?

A full copy of today’s letter to Zuckerberg can be found HERE .