According to reports, a websurfer may leave Facebook, but Facebook may not leave the surfer. Apparently the social media giant has been following users to other internet destinations. Two of the top members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Joe Barton (R-TX) and Ed Markey (D-MA), believe this to be a serious invasion of privacy and are asking the Federal Trade Commission to look into it.
Barton used to be the top Republican of the entire committee, and Markey was top Democrat of the Communications Subcommittee, but has since shifted to energy/environmental matters, while maintaining a keen interest in communications issues.
The duo fired off a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz seeking an investigation of allegations of Facebook tracking its users even after they log out should fall within the FTC’s mandate with respect to protecting Americans from “unfair and deceptive acts or practices”.
“We believe that tracking users without their knowledge or consent raises serious privacy concerns. When users log out of Facebook, they are under the impression that Facebook is no longer monitoring their activities. We believe this impression should be the reality.”
The pair have a history of taking on Facebook, which they detailed in a press release:
* Reps. Markey and Barton wrote to Facebook in October 2010 after The Wall Street Journal reported a series of privacy breaches that affected “tens of millions” of Facebook users whose personal information was leaked to third party applications, even those who adjusted their privacy settings to the strictest possible settings.
* In May 2011, Reps. Markey and Barton wrote to Facebook about a security vulnerability on Facebook that provided advertisers, analytics firms and other third parties the capability to access Facebook users’ accounts and personal information.
* In February 2011, the lawmakers wrote to Facebook with questions about the company’s proposed plan to make users’ addresses and mobile phone numbers available to third-party websites and application developers.
* In May 2011, Reps. Markey and Barton introduced the “Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011”, legislation that amends the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 to extend, enhance and update the provisions relating to the collection, use and disclosure of children’s personal information. The legislation also establishes new protections for the personal information of children and teens.
RBR-TVBR observation: Whoever it was that said politics makes strange bedfellows could have had Barton and Markey in mind. These polar opposites teaming up to take on Facebook is a little like Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote teaming up to take on the Acme company. That kind of double-team should make both Facebook and FTC take particular notice.
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