Congressmen Demand Answers On Facebook Privacy Issues

It’s always nice when a Democrat from Massachusetts and a Republican from Texas can work together, though Facebook bigwig Mark Zuckerberg might disagree. The website’s CEO finds himself being asked to answer some tough questions from a pair of Congressmen from those two states.

Representatives Ed “Don’t Call Me Biz” Markey of Massachusetts and Joe “Go Rangers” Barton of Texas sent Zuckerberg a letter asking him to respond to the following series of questions in the wake of the Wall Street Journal report regarding the leaking of private information through third-party applications:

1. How many users were impacted by the series of privacy breaches discovered by The Wall Street Journal?

2. What was the specific nature of the information transmitted from the third party application to other parties?

3. When did Facebook become aware of this series of privacy breaches?

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

5. What terms contained in your privacy policy were violated by this series of privacy breaches?

6. How many third party applications were involved in this series of privacy breaches?

7. 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?

8. Have there been similar privacy breaches by third party applications in the past? If so, please describe the nature of those breaches. Please also describe any measures you may have put in place following the discovery of any such breaches to guard against future breaches and to better protect consumer privacy.

9. What guidelines does Facebook have in place for third party applications to protect its users from advertent or inadvertent privacy breaches?

10. Please identify the officials or offices within Facebook who are responsible for ensuring that third party applications satisfy Facebook’s terms and conditions. What is Facebook’s procedure for reviewing third party applications to ensure they satisfy Facebook’s terms and conditions?

11. Please provide copies of any agreements between Facebook and its third party application developers.

12. Does Facebook receive any remuneration, financial or otherwise, as a result of the sharing of information between third party applications and internet tracking or advertising companies? If so, please disclose the nature and amount of the remuneration paid to Facebook.

13. For each application, please provide a copy of the terms and conditions or notice that was presented to the user before using the application. If multiple versions have been used, please provide all versions and note their dates of use. Please also identify any specific terms violated in this series of breaches.

14. 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? If yes, when? If not, why not?

15. To what extent has Facebook determined that data relating to minors 17 years of age and under were breached?

16. To what extent has Facebook determined that personal financial or medical data were breached?

17. Please describe any policy or procedure changes Facebook plans to adopt to ensure that users have better control over how their information is shared and with whom their information is shared when using third party applications.

18. Please describe any changes Facebook plans to adopt in the terms and conditions or notices presented to users before using third party applications.

The Congressmen have asked Zuckerberg to provide answers by Oct. 27.

Markey, Barton Press Facebook On Reported Privacy Breaches [Ed Markey’s Site]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Lollerface says:

    Facebook is the new Google. They want all your info for evil deeds.

    • sleze69 says:

      I am sorry. This is a FREE service that people voluntarily sign up for. I really can’t understand why everyone’s panties are in a bunch over this.

      It is very easy to walk away from Facebook.

      • ShinGetterPoPo says:

        While facebook is a free service, they are still profiting through their uses of information.
        Also, no matter what the free service is a company is still required to run itself both ethically, and legally.

  2. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Meanwhile, in Facebook offices, some intern is Googling “remuneration.”

  3. Tim says:

    Since Congress isn’t in session, I bet Markey and Barton used Facebook to coordinate this.

  4. deathbecomesme says:

    Man, extortion letters are getting a little long winded these days

  5. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    So glad to see our illustrious congressmen and senators working across party lines to deal with all- important issues such as this and the FOX / Cablevision squabble.

    Maybe this will lead to them working together in a bi-partisan manner on those “lesser” problems of the deficit, economic meltdown, unemployment, affordable health care, etc.

    Yea, right.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Privacy issues are actually very important.

      • Spike3185 says:

        OK so maybe they should be heading to the airport instead of online. I don’t like the whole facebook bullshit any more than anyone else but I’d rather have it out there that I like certain movies (probably the most important piece of info on my facebook) than have to be sexually harassed to get on a damn flight. And that’s IF they’re following “proper” protocol. You want to protect privacy, start with our private parts.

      • youbastid says:

        There wasn’t exactly a lot of reaching across party lines to deal with the very serious privacy issue of warrantless wiretapping now, were there?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Let’s see, a problem that affects 500 million Americans on a daily basis, that involves loss of personal and sensitive information that can be used to commit fraud against the citizens, and a company with a history of disregard for their own users’ personal information.

      You’re right, this issue is completely moot.

      • igoooorrrr says:

        I was unaware that there were 500 million Americans, and that every last one of them used Facebook.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Basing it off the movie tag posted above. I supposed the humor was too subtle.

      • areaman says:

        Unless you count South Americans there are not 500 million Americans.

        But privacy is very important.

      • drizzt380 says:

        And I didn’t know that all “500 million” of us were using facebook.

        Frankly, people who use facebook are making their own bed.

        Facebook privacy problems have come up several times, and people still continue to use it. They decided their information wasn’t too important.

  6. jason in boston says:

    Were the “breaches” known about a long time ago, like when the ACLU launched it’s own app to show you what information the ad agencies are receiving? Or in the terms of service?

    Serious question: does Facebook even have to respond? Unless this is a subpoena, I didn’t think anyone had to respond to a mere letter (congressman or not).

  7. FrugalFreak says:

    I love Marlarkey, he pushed Closed Captions on Internet video bill recently.

  8. Power Imbalance says:

    I think Facebook is on its way out.

    • areaman says:

      Yes, I FB will be the next myspace and myspace will be pushed down to Friendster status.

    • youbastid says:

      I seriously laugh when anybody says this. To the point where I actually think people are making a sarcastic joke when they say it. Facebook is so deeply integrated all over the world now, to dismiss it as the next “myspace” or “friendster” is to really have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Classmates, Friendster, Myspace, et al were stepping stones, not passing fads. Facebook was the one that got it right, and obviously the gigantic privacy problems they’ve had in the past (which were honestly much worse than this, and much more public) did little to shake their foundation.

  9. Hi_Hello says:

    To what extent has Facebook determined that personal financial or medical data were breached?

    why would you even have personal financial or medical data on facebook 0-o??

    • InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

      Actually, that’s not all that surprising, at least from the standpoint of medical data. Since this apparently happened even to people who had the strictest privacy settings on their account, it’s more than feasable. For example, maybe FB user “A” developed cancer, and was keeping friends and family up-to-date on how treatment was going. Or was getting counseling for, say, quitting smoking, and wanted to have friends to help give encouragement (and maybe explain why he/she was likely to be in a bad mood for the next few weeks). This is medical data, and most people wouldn’t think twice about sharing it with close friends.

    • dru_zod says:

      Before I wiped out my Facebook account (not soon enough, unfortunately), a few of my “friends” were posting information about their ailments quite frequently. And these were ailments like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and such. It wasn’t the type of info that you would share at all, not even with someone you know really well (except very close family), and yet they were posting it for all of their 250 “friends” to see. I guess you would call that personal medical data. Of course, they really shouldn’t have been sharing it if they didn’t want everyone to know about it.

    • jessjj347 says:

      It may even be something as simple and elegantly put as: “oh man guyz…toataally broke my arm yesterday and won’t be in skewl today. too cool for skewl! wtfbbqomg”

  10. ShruggingGalt says:

    Zuckerberg is totally going to unfriend those guys!

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      Nah, he’ll assign them to the “Dirty Rotten Politicians” group, and THEN unfriend them.

  11. AI says:

    What exactly are the laws regarding Congressional questions? Can a company or person just tell them to go fuck themselves? It just seems like they’re bypassing normal court procedures.

    • qwickone says:

      +1 I was wondering the same thing. Does FB even have to answer these questions?

    • A.Mercer says:

      They can do that if they want. The congressmen can then up their request and start making a federal case out of it. They can hold hearings and hand out subpoenas and then Facebook will have to comply. What is building up here is more legislation defining how personal information should be protected by companies like Facebook and defining damages when a company has breaches. Imagine how quick Facebook would react to breaches like this if they faced large fines. I think Facebook will want to work with the congressmen in this. They will want to try to guide the legislation from being too strong. The only way they can do that is to cooperate.

      • AI says:


        It’s a bit weird that Congress can subpoena people though. Shouldn’t that be left up to the Judicial branch of government? Nothing has been proven and Facebook hasn’t been found guilty of anything yet, you’d think they’d have to charge them with something first.

        • NatalieErin says:

          I think they have to call a hearing before they can start handing out subpoenas, and in that case they are basically having their own little court. For that matter, subpoenas aren’t just for the guilty – completely innocent witnesses are subpoenaed to testify all the time.

          • jessjj347 says:

            And then threatened for a bench warrant if they don’t appear….I don’t really understand that measure.

  12. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Aren’t they a private business, and as such allowed to market however they damn well please? It sucks, but how did you think they were making all those $$$?!

    • OmniZero says:

      The big question that stuck out to me was the information from minorities going out. I bet information about minorities going out when it wasn’t consented may have some impact on what happens here. “Won’t someone PLEASE think of the CHILDREN!?”

  13. fsnuffer says:

    How about passing a budget, how about figuring out what you are going to do concerning the Bush tax cuts, how about reforming Fanny and Freddie.

  14. Rocket says:

    I can’t wait to see Zuck’s answers to these.

  15. stopNgoBeau says:

    Dear Congress,
    STFU. I’ll deal with the appropriate federal agencies and their requests. Not yours.

    M Zuck.

  16. zombie70433 says:

    Anyone stupid enough to put tons of personal data online deserves to have their privacy violated. And any congressmen stupid enough to waste time on this issue deserves to be voted out of office.