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Congress Has a Few Questions for Facebook

When if comes to privacy, Facebook doesn’t have any. This week, we all got a look at a letter from Congress that was sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg demanding answers.

Maybe demanding is too strong a word, but the letter, which came from two members of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, made it clear that they expected a full response by next week.

Reps. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Joe Barton of Texas make reference to the recent Wall Street Journal article where it was stated that third-party Facebook apps were selling off user information. They follow this with 18 questions which include:

– Did you notify users of this series of breaches, including the specific nature of the information shared without their consent? If not, why not?

– 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?

– To what extend has Facebook determined that data relating to minors 17 years of age and under were breached?

The gist of the long list of questions is to find out when Facebook knew about the breach, how many people were affected and how they’re going to prevent such an event in the future.

Many of the questions are designed to decide culpability and the specific question about minors makes this more than just your average privacy case.

You can read the full letter from the Congressmen right here.

A company spokesperson for Facebook has said that they’ll be happy to answer the questions and clear up any “confusion” caused by the Wall Street Journal article.

In the meantime, CBS News is reporting that Zynga, the company that runs Farmville, is being sued in federal court for violating a number of privacy acts. Now Facebook is going to have to make a big decision in regard to standing behind their most popular games maker or divorcing themselves from the situation in hopes of being seen as an innocent party.

What do you think? Are the lawsuits and letters from Congress just showy acts to gain public support or is this an important security issue that needs to be addressed by a higher power?

  • http://www.taglinemachine.com Simon Gornick

    This sideshow is a classic example of a Congressional trick of showboating on high profile bi-partisan stuff that can make headlines at no cost to them. Will anything come of this? Of course, not.

    The real issue is whether Facebook cares as much as says it does about user privacy. The answer is clearly no. This is the third time they’ve fallen foul of privacy concerns. (Beacon and confusing new user settings were the first two episodes), so there’s clearly a pattern here. They bleat on about the ‘confusion’ surrounding privacy, conveniently steering clear of the main issue which is this.

    Privacy is bad for Facebook’s bottom line.

    The reason they constantly repeat their mantra about “sharing” is that sharing means more page views and more page views means more ad revenue. The less people share and the more closed their networks, the less money Facebook makes.

  • http://www.braincandymktg.com Kevin Deal

    While my gut reaction would be that the letter is just huffing and puffing on their part, I’m to far away from anyone in congress to judge there true intentions.

    Ultimately I think privacy is not such a complex issue that the government needs to step in and regulate our social media. People should be responsible for their own privacy and think about what they put on the internet.