Facebook is in hot water again over privacy concerns with some of its potential features.
Some U.S. senators are less than pleased with CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent decision to let third party applications request access to users’ addresses and phone numbers, saying it could lead to privacy violations.
Sens. Al Franken of Minnesota, Chuck Schumer of New York, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut – all Democrats – wrote a letter to Zuckerberg Wednesday asking him to reconsider the plan and to tell users how this information could be abused. Other members of Congress sent a similar letter last month.
“Barring this, we urge you to block this feature for users who are 17 and younger, and to structure your permissions process to inform users of the risks of releasing their mobile phone and home address information,” the senators wrote. “These simple changes would go a long way in protecting the 147 million Americans who use Facebook today – especially the 13 million Facebook users who are teenagers and have not yet reached the age of 18.”
Anyone with a phone number, address, and an Internet connection can use Google to find someone’s income, date of birth, home ownership information, name of bank that financed the home, and other sensitive information, the senators charge.
“We appreciate all of the feedback we’re getting on this issue and that feedback will inform the decisions we make as we continue to develop the feature,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement to genConnect.
“We believe there is great value in letting people choose to share information about themselves on Facebook, just as they are voluntarily registering this information on sites across the web, and offline in ways as simple as a return address sticker. Despite rumors, apps and external websites cannot access a user’s address or phone number from Facebook without that user’s permission. People are always in control of what information they share through our service.”
Facebook is pointing to other productive uses of mobile/address provisioning, such as: how graduating high school seniors are using Facebook to apply to colleges; that minors of all ages are using the service and many others to back up their contacts in the cloud; and that there are dozens of other valuable and safe ways for sharing this info that have not been conceived yet.
Other points Facebook makes, include:
-People are voluntarily providing certain information across the web through the auto-fill features of every major browser.
-There’s no way for apps or other websites to access a user’s address or phone number from Facebook without their permission. People will always be in control of what information they share with apps and websites.
-For people that may find this option useful in the future, we’re considering ways to let them share this information. We have no plans to make this update soon.
-Some potential benefits of users deciding to share this information: Universities could communicate with applicants or schools could send immediate updates about weather-related closings, class schedules, or emergencies; an app that lets students get SAT and test prep questions on their phone (already exists off of Facebook)
-Governments could communicate with citizens on voter registration, motor vehicle registration, or any number of personalized services.
-Airlines could update passengers about flight delays or cancellations.
-A family app could connect parents with kids quickly as young people increasingly expect this communication to take place on their mobile phone.
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