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Congress asks for details on privacy loophole in Facebook apps

The letter was sent in response to a Wall Street Journal investigation that found a loophole in many Facebook applications that transmit ID numbers for users and friends to dozens of advertising and internet tracking companies.

The letter from US Representatives Edward Markey (D-MA) and Joe Barton (R-TX) asked Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg how many user had been affected by the loophole, when Facebook became aware of it, and what changes Facebook planned to make to deal with the problem, according to the Wall Street Journal. Zuckerberg has until Oct. 27 to respond.

In August, the two members of Congress, who co-chair the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, requested information from 15 websites about their data-collection practices.

“The responses raise a number of concerns, including whether consumers are able to effectively shield their personal Internet habits and private information from the prying eyes of online data gatherers. Consumers may be unaware that the sites they visit, co-ordinating with a cadre of analytics firms, advertising networks and offline data companies, may be tracking their activities around the internet”, Markey said.

"When Congress considers comprehensive privacy legislation, the responses to our questions will help inform my approach during the legislative process”, he added.

Barton observed that “there is now a small army of companies collecting, analyzing, trading, and using information about consumers’ habits, purchases, and private data. While some of these practices may be entirely legitimate – some, in fact, ultimately beneficial to the consumer – I do worry that not only are many Americans unaware of these practices, but those who seek out information in privacy policies often come up against complicated legalese.

”Transparency is the “first step in educating consumers about the collection and use of their information, and clear, plain-language disclosures must ultimately lead to consumer control and consumer choice as well,” he concluded.

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