Senators Push Facebook Not To Be A Phone Book

Four Democrats from the U.S. Senate's newest privacy committee have joined the federal push against Facebook's intention to resume sharing user data.

Four Democrats from the U.S. Senate’s newest privacy committee have joined the federal push against Facebook’s intention to resume sharing user data that could include addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and more.

The letter addresses the ongoing debate that ensued from Facebook granting third-party developers access to users’ addresses and phone numbers for about 72 hours in January. A huge backlash motived the site to stop sharing this information, but the social network continues to state that it intends to resume these shares, albeit in some more agreeable fashion that the company is still trying to determine.

Senators Al Franken of Minnesota, Chuck Schumer of New York, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut have just sent a letter to Facebook arguing the same points that the co-chairmen of the House’s Bipartisan Privacy Caucus, Republican Representatives Joe Barton of Texas and Ed Markey of Massachusetts did in a missive last month.

Politico quotes from the letter, which asks Facebook to:

reconsider this policy… [or at least] block this feature for Facebook users between 13 and 17 years of age.. The changes Facebook is contemplating would allow countless application developers to access a vast repository of personal information with just one or two clicks from a user’s mouse… In our opinion, the risks presented by these changes are too high – especially for thirteen- or fourteen-year-olds who may have no conception of the consequences for disclosing this kind of information…

However, a spokesperson for Facebook responded that the social network:

appreciate[s] 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… 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.

A fair amount of the data-sharing debate involves misunderstandings, showing that Facebook still has a lot more work to do in educating policymakers, users of the site and even developers — and each of these three groups would also benefit from doing the same with respect to the site and the other aforementioned parties.

Readers, what do you think of the Facebook data sharing debate as things stand now — what kind of compromise might satisfy users, lawmakers and developers?