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Sens. Franken, Schumer, Whitehouse, Blumenthal Warn New Facebook Plan May Reveal Sensitive User Information, Increasing Risk For Fraud, Theft And Abuse

Senators Ask Zuckerberg to Block Third Parties' Easy Access  to Users’ Mobile Phone and Home Address Information

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Today, Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) urged Facebook to stop plans that could reveal sensitive personal information about its 147 million American users, making them easy targets for fraud, theft, and abuse.  Americans who use Facebook, especially the 13 million users who are under 18, may be exposing sensitive personal data such as mobile phone numbers and home addresses to third parties unless Facebook changes a new plan that would allow application developers to request and obtain the information, the senators warned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a letter today.

"Anyone with ten minutes, $25, and a Facebook user's phone number and address and no other information can obtain a breathtaking amount of information about that Facebook user-and that Facebook user's family, friends, neighbors, and landlord," the senators wrote. "Combined with a targeted Google search, these two pieces of information can allow someone to obtain almost all of the information necessary to complete a loan or credit card application. It is hard to contemplate all of the different ways in which this information could be abused."

The senators found that this information is all someone would need to unlock many personal details about a user, from their date of birth to the value of their mortgage. The senators asked Zuckerberg to reconsider Facebook's policy or at least take some commonsense steps to block those under 18 from revealing this information, inform other users of the risks of doing so, or allow those users to opt out. The full text of the letter is here.

Last year, Sens. Franken, Schumer, Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) wrote to Facebook urging the company to fix its privacy policy to block users' personal information from being accessed by third parties without the users' consent. The full text of that letter can be found here.

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