Facebook Must Explain Privacy Practices to Congress

Facebook's plan to give developers access to users' addresses and phone numbers has not gone over so well with many, and now the heads of the House of Representatives' Privacy Caucus want answers. The feature only lasted three days as the social networking site decided to suspend it pending a better (and less controversial) option.

In a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Representatives Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) are asking for specifics on the plans. Among the questions are how this information would be shared and how the process was vetted, as well as asking for specifics on why Facebook ultimately decided to shelve the plan.

"Facebook needs to protect the personal information of its users to ensure that Facebook doesn't become Phonebook," said Rep. Markey. "That's why I am requesting responses to these questions to better understand Facebook's practices regarding possible access to users' personal information by third parties. This is sensitive data and needs to be protected."

The social networking site has had a rocky time dealing with the issue of privacy, a lot of it having to do with its advertising practices -- "Sponsored Stories" and Facebook Beacon are two examples. But this newest one seems to go even further by sharing users' offline contact information. I've never understood what benefit this would have to Facebook developers, or why its even necessary.

I guess we'll find out soon -- Markey and Barton are asking for Zuckerberg's response by Feburary 23.

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