Home Congressmen Wary of Facebook Patent That Seeks to Track User Information

Congressmen Wary of Facebook Patent That Seeks to Track User Information

The Hill reports that Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), co-chairmen of the Congressional Privacy Caucus, have accused Facebook of evading questions related to whether it tracks users’ online activities to deliver more targeted ads.

The congressmen were not satisfied with Facebook’s response to questions raised by a February 2011 patent filing. It suggested that the social network tracked users when they were logged off and browsing other non-Facebook sites.

Facebook’s letter referenced a full audit of Facebook’s non-U.S. completed in December 2011 by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, which instructed the social network to stop retaining advertising data indefinitely.

It also recommended improvements for how data is logged when people access websites with social plugins. The idea is to minimize the amount of information collected about people who are not logged in to Facebook, according to reports from ZDNet.

In its letter to Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), Facebook also discussed location-based advertising.

Facebook says that it gives the advertiser an opportunity to choose the audience based on information Facebook receives about location, including: people who say they live in a specific city, check in somewhere, or specify a location in a status update. As such, the user willingly provides the information to Facebook, who in turn hands it over to the advertiser.

The congressmen remained concerned about the possibility of targeted advertising.

“The main questions of whether Facebook has considered using third-party tracking data to build user profiles or employs user-provided data to target advertising remain unanswered from the company’s response to our letter,” writes Markey in a statement.

“Additionally in its response to us, Facebook states that it uses consumer-provided data for ‘internal operations, including data analysis, research, development, and service improvement’ yet provides no description of what these activities entail or how they affect consumer privacy,” Markey continues.

The congressmen were not satisfied with Facebook’s response.

“Facebook’s seems to be saying one thing and doing another,” said Rep. Barton. “In the company’s response, it talks a lot about how they don’t currently ‘track’ users online, but they just asked for a patent that would allow them to do just that. Why ask for something you don’t ever plan on using?”

Facebook settled with the FTC last November. Earlier this month, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) requested that the FTC investigate possible Timeline privacy breaches.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Get the biggest tech headlines of the day delivered to your inbox

    By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy. Unsubscribe anytime.

    Tech News

    Explore the latest in tech with our Tech News. We cut through the noise for concise, relevant updates, keeping you informed about the rapidly evolving tech landscape with curated content that separates signal from noise.

    In-Depth Tech Stories

    Explore tech impact in In-Depth Stories. Narrative data journalism offers comprehensive analyses, revealing stories behind data. Understand industry trends for a deeper perspective on tech's intricate relationships with society.

    Expert Reviews

    Empower decisions with Expert Reviews, merging industry expertise and insightful analysis. Delve into tech intricacies, get the best deals, and stay ahead with our trustworthy guide to navigating the ever-changing tech market.