WASHINGTON, February 28, 2011 – Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Edward Markey (D-MA), Co-Chairmen of the House Bipartisan Privacy Caucus, shared Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s response to a letter they wrote to him on February 2, 2011, questioning a particular privacy feature on Facebook that would potentially share mobile numbers and home addresses with websites and third party-applications.
The February letter to Facebook consisted of 11 bullet points, questioning the type of information the feature will share with third parties, why Facebook decided to suspend the feature, and what changes have been implemented to the feature during its suspension. In addition, the letter questions Facebook’s views on the risks the feature may bring by sharing the personal contact information of children and teenagers.
The representatives seek to clarify Facebook’s current privacy settings, in addition to questioning Facebook’s intent, process and stance on privacy issues in general. Facebook’s potential ability to share the private information of millions of users has drawn the watchful eye of many politicians and users alike.
“I’m pleased that Facebook’s response indicated that it’s looking to enhance its process for highlighting for users when they are being asked for permission to share their contact information,” stated Rep. Markey. “Facebook has indicated that the feature is still a work in progress, and I will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure that sensitive personal user data, especially those belonging to children and teenagers, are protected.”
“Facebook has a responsibility to their customers, not just the third party vendors it associates with,” stated Rep. Barton. “I hope they continue to improve protection of users' private information.”
This exchange is the second between Reps. Markey and Barton and Facebook. The first exchange occurred in October 2010, when the representatives inquired after a report published in the Wall Street Journal that found certain companies were able to access user’s Facebook IDs without the user’s consent. Facebook responded quickly and in full, but did not deny that some third-party applications were transferring personal information and violating Facebook’s privacy code.
The privacy feature in question was temporarily suspended by Facebook on January 14, 2011, though Facebook has said they intend to re-enable the feature.
Rep. Markey is a senior member and former chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communication, Technology and the Internet Subcommittee in addition to being the House author of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).