Facebook is facing a new round of criticism for its (in)ability to keep users' information private.

An AFP story over the weekend states that both Germany's Consumer Affairs Minister Ilse Aigner and Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger were highly critical of Facebook after it emerged in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine that a sign-in flaw could allow non-Facebook users to access the contact list of Facebook users.

When a new user signs up for Facebook, he or she must enter their email address. However, the Frankfurter Allgemeine reported that if that person instead enters an existing Facebook user's email address, it is then possible to see that user's contact list. Given that there are some 500 million Facebook users (or about 25% of all Internet users), it wouldn't take too much effort to exploit the flaw.

Minister Aigner is quoted in the Frankfurter Allgemeine as describing the flaw as one in a "series of dubious practices" that shows "Facebook's lack of respect for the privacy of Internet users," while Minister Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger is quoted in the newspaper as saying the flaw showed Facebook "lacked consideration in the management of personal data."

In April, Minister Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger called on Facebook to upgrade its privacy settings, saying at the time that the company did not respect the privacy wishes of its users. This latest Facebook glitch has no doubt made her unhappy, as will a story that has appeared in today's Wall Street Journal.

The Journal reports that "Many of the most popular applications, or "apps," on the social networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information - in effect, providing access to people's names and, in some cases, their friends' names - to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies."

The problem even affects those with Facebook's strictest security settings, the WSJ says.

Facebook, when informed of the problem, told the WSJ that it would now be taking steps to limit the exposure of such information.

I also wonder if advertisers and Internet tracking companies have been secretly exploiting the flaw that the Frankfurter Allgemeine reported.

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How the FCC Settles Radio-Spectrum Turf Wars

Remember the 5G-airport controversy? Here’s how such disputes play out

11 min read
This photo shows a man in the basket of a cherry picker working on an antenna as an airliner passes overhead.

The airline and cellular-phone industries have been at loggerheads over the possibility that 5G transmissions from antennas such as this one, located at Los Angeles International Airport, could interfere with the radar altimeters used in aircraft.

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

You’ve no doubt seen the scary headlines: Will 5G Cause Planes to Crash? They appeared late last year, after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration warned that new 5G services from AT&T and Verizon might interfere with the radar altimeters that airplane pilots rely on to land safely. Not true, said AT&T and Verizon, with the backing of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which had authorized 5G. The altimeters are safe, they maintained. Air travelers didn’t know what to believe.

Another recent FCC decision had also created a controversy about public safety: okaying Wi-Fi devices in a 6-gigahertz frequency band long used by point-to-point microwave systems to carry safety-critical data. The microwave operators predicted that the Wi-Fi devices would disrupt their systems; the Wi-Fi interests insisted they would not. (As an attorney, I represented a microwave-industry group in the ensuing legal dispute.)

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