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Congressmen Edward Markey and Joe Barton ask Facebook to explain security vulnerability

May 11, 2011 |  4:13 pm

Congressmen Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) have asked Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg to explain a security vulnerability that gave advertisers and other third parties access to users' accounts and personal information. 

Security company Symantec Corp. discovered the vulnerability and alerted Facebook, which said it was fixed.

Facebook faces growing scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators concerned how it protects personal information shared by its users.

Reps. Markey and Barton have probed Facebook's privacy practices in the past. They fired off a letter to Facebook last fall after the Wall Street Journal uncovered privacy breaches affecting tens of millions of Facebook users whose personal information was leaked to third party applications.

In January, Facebook launched a new feature allowing external websites and applications access to users' addresses and phone numbers with their permission. Barton and Markey again wrote Facebook for an explanation.

This time, they say they want to know the magnitude of the security problem and what, if anything, Facebook has done to inform users, among other things.

"While Facebook reportedly now has fixed this particular issue, we remain concerned about how the problem arose in the first place, was allowed to persist undetected for such a long period of time and could recur in some form in the future," Markey and Barton wrote in their letter to Zuckerberg.

In a statement Tuesday, Facebook said it addressed the problem immediately and that its investigation "revealed no evidence of this issue resulting in a user's private information being shared with unauthorized third parties."

It also pointed out that advertisers and software developers are contractually prohibited from obtaining or sharing user information "in a way that violates our policies."

"We welcome the opportunity to talk this through with Reps. Markey and Barton," the company said Wednesday.


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-- Jessica Guynn