Lawmakers targeting Facebook for FTC probe

Krystal Peak · September 30, 2011 · Short URL:

Facebook accused of 'unfair and deceptive acts or practices'

No one boasts about the amazing commitment to privacy that Facebook has and now Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.) have written a letter to the Federal Trade Commission urging that the regulatory organization investigate the social giant.

These most recent concerns arose when the two politicians, that co-chair the House privacy caucus, were alerted, by constituents and an Austrailian blogger, that Facebook's cookies were enabled even after they logged out of the website.

Facebook has said that it does use cookies, even after users have logged off of the site but that the information does not go to their advertisers and is instead focused on allowing people to "like" and update their status on other sites such as news and music media pages.

Blogger Nic Cubrilovic, stated in a blog on September 25, that those really concerned about their online privacy should not rest easy on just logging out of Facebook. The self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur, writer and hacker gave step-by-step instructions on the best way to disable the cookies that many are concerned are accessable by advertisers.

Continued online concerns and buzz prompted the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and 10 other privacy and civil rights advocacy groups to also reach out to the FTC and require Facebook to change and offer more transparency in the site's use of cookies. 

Reps. Markey and Batron stated in their FTC letter that they want to know about any actions that the organization is or has taken to investigate Facebook's practices and that they believe that "tracking its [Facebook's] users even after they log out falls with the FTC's mandate" to protect consumers from "unfair and deceptive acts or practices."

As these individual alerts to Facebook have gone out, Cubrilovic stated in his blog that he has been in constant contact with Facebook about the cookie situation and he states that "Facebook has made changes to the logout process and they have explained each part of the process and the cookies that the site uses in detail."

But now the issue could be in the hands of the FTC to assure that Facebook's practices are on the up-and-up and possibly set up standards that the company has to adhere to. 

This clammor of concerns come hot on the tail of a slew of Facebook changes that continue to chip away at the wall between private computer activity and public record -- termed "frictionless sharing" -- including the big buzz on Spotify's new integration with the site.

As social media, and Facebook in particular, continue to ingrate more elements of personal information and general website acitivity I'll put my money down on the fact that more investiagtions are on the horizon. 

(image source: dissociatedpress)

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