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Two senior U.S. lawmakers are expressing serious concern over data collection methods on a handful of highly-trafficked sites, included MSN.com, AOL, and Careerbuilder.

Representatives Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, sent a letter Thursday to 15 sites. The reps explained that the impetus to write came from a recentĀ Wall Street Journal series that suggests spying on Internet users is fast-becoming a huge online business.

Markey and Barton wrote, “We are troubled by the findings in this report, which suggest that the price of consumers’ unfettered use of the Internet increasingly is surrender of their personal information, preferences and intimate details to websites, data monitoring companies, marketers and other information gathering firms that seek to track them online and develop digital dossiers for a range of purposes, including marketing.”

Congress is currently considering comprehensive privacy legislation, and the representatives requested responses to questions about data collection and privacy policies from each of the 15 sites.

The letter, also sent to social media giant MySpace.com, asks the sites what consumer information they collect, what third-party partners they have and how the sites use the data. The lawmakers also asked whether they sell the personal data or monetize it otherwise, and how much money the site makes from auctioning off the data.

In a review of Careerbuilder’s privacy policy, the company states that, “CareerBuilder may collect personal information, including contact information (such as an email address), from its users. In addition, this information allows us to provide users with private and secure areas to post and modify their original content on our Sites (e.g., jobs and resumes)…

“We do not sell our users’ contact information to anyone for any reason if the user has indicated a desire for us to keep the information private. When posting jobs and resumes, our users decide for themselves how much contact information they wish to display (we enable private communication for those who choose to hide this information).

“All users should be aware, however, that when they voluntarily display or distribute personal information (such as their email address or resume), that information can be collected and used by others. This may result in unsolicited messages from third parties for which CareerBuilder is not responsible.”

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