Facebook Still Wants to Share Users' Personal Info With Third-Party Developers
Yesterday, the company released a response (PDF) to Representatives Ed Markey and Joe Barton, who had penned a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg earlier this month voicing their concerns over the proposed feature. Facebook acknowledged that it's exploring different ways to "enhance user control" over the data-sharing mechanism, and revealed that it is "actively considering" whether or not to exclude users who are below the age of 18. But the social network made clear its intent to move forward with the feature.
"We expect that, once the feature is re-enabled, Facebook will again permit users to authorize applications to obtain their contact information," wrote Marne Levine, Facebook's vice president of global policy.
Facebook introduced the controversial feature in January, but temporarily suspended it just three days later, promising changes that would "make people more clearly aware of when they are granting access to this data." Under the framework initially proposed, users would grant access to their phone numbers and addresses simply by clicking the 'Allow' button that often appears whenever people choose to use third-party apps. Many critics, however, raised concerns over such sensitive information being simply tacked on to a longer list of personal data.
But Facebook seems to think that addresses and phone numbers are simply natural extensions to a well-established data-sharing framework. As Levine argued, Facebook apps have always required users to grant access to certain chunks of their personal data. He notes, "A photo-printing application that prints photos for a user requests permission specifically to access a user's photo; a social-gaming application that allows users to play a game with his or her friends requests permission to access the user's friends list."
Rep. Markey, however, thinks that the social network should set harder restrictions on the information it allows users to share, and on the age of users who can share it. "I don't believe that applications on Facebook should get this information from teens, and I encourage Facebook to wall off access to teen's contact information if they enable this new feature," Markey said, in a statement. "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."