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Congress Gives Facebook Privacy Homework Extension

  |  October 27, 2010   |  Comments

Facebook was expected to respond to a Congressional inquiry by today, but has received an extension.

Congress has given Facebook a deadline extension on its privacy homework. The social networking giant was expected to respond to an inquiry related to a privacy breach allegation from two powerful U.S. Congressman by today, but as is often the case on Capitol Hill, Facebook has received an extension. Facebook said it plans to work with browser manufacturers to alleviate a weakness it believes caused the automatic transfer of user IDs to third party firms.

Last week, Representatives Joe Barton of Texas and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, co-chairs of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking a series of questions regarding an alleged privacy breach reported in the Wall Street Journal. Facebook's answers - originally due today - will inform discussions surrounding pending privacy legislation, the Representatives said

A House Energy and Commerce Committee aide told ClickZ News Facebook received the extension, but did not know what the new deadline is. Most likely, Facebook will be expected to respond to the privacy questions within the coming week or so.

Senator John Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, reportedly sent a letter Tuesday to Facebook and MySpace. The missive requested information about privacy breaches alleged in Wall Street Journal reports.

A story in the newspaper published October 18 alleged that some of the top Facebook applications such as Zynga's FarmVille had transmitted Facebook ID numbers to several advertising and data firms, calling the data transfer a "privacy breach." Another published more recently indicated MySpace was also transferring user IDs to third-parties.

"The issue is caused by an inherent weakness in web browsers, which automatically share information with visited websites," said Andrew Noyes, Facebook's manager, public policy communications, in a statement sent to ClickZ News.

"This underlying issue isn't at all specific to Facebook and has existed across the Internet for years. However, within days of discovering the implications of this issue for applications on Facebook, we announced a solution - to encrypt all user IDs that applications access. But we aren't stopping there. We're going to work with browser manufacturers to address this issue on the browser level across the Internet," continued Noyes.

Among the questions asked by Barton and Markey: "What procedures do you have in place to detect and/or prevent third-party applications that may breach the terms of Facebook's privacy policy?" and "Will Facebook seek the deletion of its users' personal information from data bases of the Internet or advertising companies who received it as a result of this series of privacy breaches?"

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Kaye

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.

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