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Al Franken and other Democratic Senators attack Facebook’s privacy changes

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Al Franken

Senator Al Franken is a leading a Democratic charge against the newest Facebook privacy changes. Franken, along with three other Senators (Chuck Schumer, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Richard Blumenthal), wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to reconsider a plan by Facebook to allow third-party companies access to personal data. 

The changes were first planned for this January but delayed because of public outcry. Facebook has modified the plan by making it more obvious to users what information exactly they are agreeing to give away. But a lot of people don't think that's enough. Franken's most convincing example is copied below; the entire text is available here

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. 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. 

Franken and the other Senators are particularly concerned with children's privacy; over thirteen million kids have Facebook profiles. Facebook posted the following response in an article on the Huffington Post. 

We appreciate all of the feedback we're getting on this issue and that feedback will inform the decisions we make as we continue to develop the feature. We believe there is great value in letting people choose to share information about themselves on Facebook, just as they are voluntarily registering this information on sites across the web, and offline in ways as simple as a return address sticker. Despite rumors, apps and external websites cannot access a user's address or phone number from Facebook without that user’s permission. People are always in control of what information they share through our service.

Public outcry was enough to delay the planned changes before; if enough people feel uncomfortable with the new changes, it might happen again.