May 11, 2011: Markey, Barton Press Facebook on Latest Privacy Problem

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) today sent a letter asking Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to respond to questions about the privacy problems reported in The Wall Street Journal. The article reports that a security vulnerability on Facebook provided advertisers, analytics firms and other third parties the capability to access Facebook users' accounts and personal information.  Reps. Markey and Barton, co-Chairmen of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, wrote to Facebook in fall 2010 after The Journal reported a series of privacy breaches that affected “tens of millions” of Facebook users whose personal information was leaked to third party applications, even those who adjusted their privacy settings to the strictest settings possible settings.

“While Facebook reportedly now has fixed this particular issue, we remain concerned about how the problem arose in the first place, was allowed to persist undetected for such a long period of time and could recur in some form in the future,” wrote Reps. Markey and Barton in the letter to Zuckerberg. “Moreover, we also are disturbed to learn of this issue after we raised similar concerns in our October 18, 2010 correspondence with Facebook following reports that various third party applications gathered and transmitted personally identifiable information about Facebook users and those users’ friends.”
In the letter, Reps. Markey and Barton ask Facebook to respond to questions that include:

  • What is Facebook’s estimate of the magnitude of the data leakage?
  • What is Facebook doing to inform users of the leakage of personal data?  Has Facebook informed users of options to address the problem?
  • What is Facebook’s estimate of the duration of the problem? What policies and procedures does Facebook have in place to ensure that Facebook applications do not share users’ personal information, including account information, with third parties without users’ permission?
  • Is the access by third party applications a violation of Facebook’s privacy policy?  

A copy of the letter to Facebook can be found HERE.