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Markey still concerned about Facebook privacy

WASHINGTON – US Representative Edward J. Markey continued today to raise concerns about Facebook’s privacy policies, citing recent correspondence from the company and new media reports about the use of facial recognition software on the site.

Markey, a Malden Democrat, and Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, criticized Facebook after the company wrote to them recently in response to concerns about privacy that the lawmakers had raised last month.

The company acknowledged in a letter that it has continued to work with companies that deliberately passed user information to third parties.

“It is disturbing that Facebook is permitting developers that flagrantly violated its users’ privacy, and Facebook’s own privacy policy, to interact again with Facebook users,’’ Markey said in a statement.

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Facebook said it has attempted to be responsive to the concerns raised by the congressmen.

“We’ve addressed the issues raised by Reps. Markey and Barton extensively – both publicly, through information posted on relevant pages of our website, and privately through letters and discussions with their staffs,’’ said spokesman Andrew Noyes. “We’re happy to answer any additional questions they may have.’’

Markey and Barton, the House co-chairs of the Congressional Privacy Caucus, wrote to Facebook last fall after The Wall Street Journal reported that a security weakness allowed third parties to access users’ accounts and personal information though games and other applications that users sign up for.

The two wrote again in May about how third parties could view users’ access “tokens’’ –codes that permit developers’ access to user information.

Marne Levine, the company’s vice president for global public policy, responded that the company had resolved the problem. But he also revealed that a small number of software developers had intentionally passed user IDs to data brokers, and “a few’’ of those companies continued to write Facebook applications, despite the breaches.

“I am alarmed by an emerging pattern of privacy and security problems at Facebook,’’ said Markey.

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Markey also criticized Facebook’s new facial recognition feature, which requires uninterested users to opt out, instead of requiring people who want the service to sign up. The Wall Street Journal carried a story about the feature in today’s editions.

“When it comes to its users’ privacy, Facebook’s policy should be: ‘Ask for permission, don’t assume it,’’’ Markey said.

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