Two powerful U.S. Congressman have asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to respond to a series of questions regarding an alleged privacy breach reported yesterday in the Wall Street Journal. Facebook responded, saying it aims to clear confusion the story may have caused, and calling the report of a privacy breach "curious at best."
Representatives Joe Barton of Texas and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, co-chairs of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, said answers Facebook gives in response to a letter they sent yesterday will inform discussions surrounding pending privacy legislation.
"Given the number of current users, the rate at which that number grows worldwide, and the age range of Facebook users, combined with the amount and the nature of information these users place in Facebook's trust, this series of breaches of consumer privacy is cause for concern," wrote the Congressmen.
They continued, "As I am sure you are aware, the Committee on Energy and Commerce is the primary House panel responsible for oversight of consumer privacy. As I am sure you are also aware, comprehensive privacy legislation is currently pending before the Committee."
Though a looming privacy bill has focused primarily on behavioral ad targeting, the heightened interest in Facebook privacy could inspire additional language affecting privacy in social media arenas like Facebook.
A Wall Street Journal story published yesterday made waves, alleging that some of the top Facebook applications such as Zynga's FarmVille had transmitted "Facebook ID numbers to at least 25 advertising and data firms, several of which build profiles of Internet users by tracking their online activities." The article referred to the transfer of Facebook user IDs as a "privacy breach" because, the story stated, "Facebook prohibits app makers from transferring data about users to outside advertising and data companies, even if a user agrees."
The legislators also asked Facebook to "identify the officials or offices within Facebook who are responsible for ensuring that third-party applications satisfy Facebook's terms and conditions." They also expressed concern regarding possible leaking of financial or medical data and data relating to minors.
"We look forward to addressing any confusion that has resulted from the Wall Street Journal article and we're happy to work with Reps. Markey and Barton to answer any questions they may have," wrote Andrew Noyes, Facebook's manager of public policy communications in a statement sent to ClickZ News.
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
March 19, 2014