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article imageTwo congressmen call for FTC investigation into Facebook

By Jane Fazackarley     Sep 29, 2011 in Internet
Following the revelation that Facebook had been using cookies to track visitors long after they had logged out, two congressmen have called for a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation into the social networking site.
Congressmen Edward Markey and Joe Barton both hold the position of Co-Chairman of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus. The two men have previously raised concerns over Facebook privacy issues and now a letter published on the Markey House website, which is addressed to the Honourable Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC, asks what, if any, action the FTC plan to take and asks if the FTC will be carrying out an investigation into the use of cookies.
It was recently discovered that Facebook were able to track users when they visited a site that contained the Facebook “Like” buttons or that connects with Facebook. According to the letter, it is estimated that more than 900,000 websites use the “Like” button. The letter also expresses concern over how long the site will take to remedy the problem.
The congressmen go on to state that “….users should not be tracked without their permission” and finishes by saying that an investigation into the tracking after users have logged out “falls within the FTC’s mandate as stipulated in Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act" which protects Americans from "unfair and deceptive practises".
Blogger Nic Cubrilovic first brought the issue to public notice. In a blog post entitled “Logging out of Facebook isn’t enough”,Cubrilovic detailed how tracking cookies continued to track users of the site after they had left it. Cubrilovic explained:
“…..logging out of Facebook only de-authorizes your browser from the web application, a number of cookies (including your account number) are still sent along to all requests to facebook.com. Even if you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit. The only solution is to delete every Facebook cookie in your browser, or to use a separate browser for Facebook interactions.”
In a response to the post, Gregg Stefancik, an engineer at Facebook, said:
“We haven’t done as good a job as we could have to explain our cookie practices.”
Stefancik also states that the cookies were not used for the purpose of tracking users and that the cookies were used to provide custom content, to protect users and the site from attacks, and to improve and maintain the service of the site.
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