Lawmakers and privacy advocates call for FTC probe of Facebook

Consumer Reports News: October 03, 2011 02:23 PM

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If you're upset about the recent Facebook changes, you're not alone: Last week, U.S. lawmakers as well privacy advocates and consumer groups filed two separate petitions with the Federal Trade Commission, asking the regulatory agency to open a probe into the social-networking giant.

The petitions come after recent changes to the Facebook website—many of which have drawn the ire of users and online advocates alike. One Australian security blogger, for example, discovered that a technical change in Facebook's sign-in process could allow the company to track users' browsing history even after they've logged out of the social media site.

The news, prompted Congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), the co-chairs of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus to write to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz:

We believe that an investigation of Facebook tracking its users even after they log out falls within the FTC's mandate...to protecting Americans from 'unfair and deceptive acts or practices.'

A coalition of 10 consumer advocacy organizations and privacy groups, such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center, American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation, sent a similar petition to the FTC. In its 14-page letter, the group said the recent Facebook changes have made it more difficult for its members to maintain their privacy. They wrote:

Options for users to preserve the privacy standards they have established have become confusing, impractical, and unfair.

Joint letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz (PDF) [Office of Rep. Edward Markey]
Letter from EPIC-led Coalition to the FTC (PDF) [Electronic Privacy Information Center]
With new Facebook features, users may share more than they intended [New Jersey Online]
Facebook Tracking Probe Sought by Washington Privacy Groups [Bloomberg Businessweek]
ACLU joins call for FTC Facebook probe [USA Today]
US congressmen ask FTC to investigate Facebook cookies [ZDNet]

Paul Eng

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