After recently published findings that Facebook had been gathering information about the websites its users visited even after users logged out of Facebook, Congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) today urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the company's practices in this area. Facebook has admitted to collecting information about its users even after its users had logged out. Facebook reportedly obtained this information when users visited websites that connect with Facebook, including websites with Facebook's "Like" button. In a letter sent today to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, the Congressmen write that an investigation 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".
In the letter, Reps. Markey and Barton, co-Chairmen of the Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, write, "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."
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.