Facebook will be moving forward with a controversial plan to give third-party developers and external websites the ability to access users’ home addresses and cellphone numbers in the face of criticism from privacy experts, users, and even congressmen.
Facebook quietly announced the new policy in a note posted to its Developer Blog in January. It suspended the feature just three days later following user outcry, while promising that it would be “re-enabling this improved feature in the next few weeks.”
In response to a letter penned by Representatives Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) expressing concern over the new functionality, Facebook reaffirmed that it will be allowing third parties to request access to users’ addresses and phone numbers.
Facebook noted that it is considering implementing controls that would more explicitly highlight the personal nature of the information being transmitted to applications and explained it is “actively considering” whether to restrict users under 18 years old from sharing their contact information with third-party developers.
“We expect that, once the feature is re-enabled, Facebook will again permit users to authorize applications to obtain their contact information,” Facebook’s Marne Levine, vice president of global public policy, wrote in the letter to Reps. Markey and Barton. “[H]owever, we are currently evaluating methods to further enhance user control in this area.”
Facebook has attempted to tread a fine line with regard to privacy issues even as it has continuously pushed users to share more information, both on Facebook and beyond the social network.
The plan to open up users’ address and phone numbers to third-party sites and services marks the latest frontier in Facebook’s often controversy-fraught efforts to encourage users to be more liberal in sharing their data and online activity.