Facebook says it is "actively considering" whether to again
allow third-party applications to request mobile phone
numbers and home addresses from users younger than 18.
The ability of applications to request that information from
users of the social networking site has been controversial
since Facebook first allowed it briefly in January. Facebook
disabled the feature for all users a few days later, after
criticism from some users and privacy experts.
Facebook has said some users might want to share their cell
phone number with an application to get text message alerts
on special deals, or allow an Internet shopping site to have
access to their home addresses to make the checkout process
In a letter to lawmakers released Monday, Facebook said it
was working to "re-enable" the feature, but with changes.
It could, for example, continue to disable the feature for
minors. Facebook also could revise the permission screen to
let users see more clearly what information they are making
available when they approve requests for personal information
from third parties.
"We have not yet decided when or in what manner we will
redeploy the permission for mobile numbers and addresses,"
Marne Levine, Facebook's vice president for global public
policy, wrote to Reps. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Joe L.
The two lawmakers are key congressional players on privacy
issues and jumped into the dispute about Facebook's new
feature early last month. They wrote to Facebook Chief
Executive Mark Zuckerberg asking 11 detailed questions and
expressing concerns that it would violate the privacy of
On Monday, the congressmen released the seven-page response
they received last week from Facebook.
Levine stressed that Facebook users still must give
permission to applications seeking personal data.
More recent user feedback about the new feature, she wrote,
led Facebook executives to determine that it could be
re-enabled with clearer and more visible statements on the
With children involved, Markey said, it was crucial for
Facebook to get the policy right. He urged the company not to
allow applications to have access to contact information for
"I'm pleased that Facebook's response indicated that it's
looking to enhance its process for highlighting for users
when they are being asked for permission to share their
contact information," Markey said.
"I'm also encouraged that Facebook is deciding whether to
allow applications on the site to request contact information
from minors," he said. "I don't believe that applications on
Facebook should get this information from teens, and I
encourage Facebook to wall off access to teens' contact
information if they enable this new feature."