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US lawmakers ask FTC to investigate Facebook over privacy concerns

US Congressmen Edward Markey (D-MA) and Joe Barton (R-TX), co-chairs of the Congressional Privacy Caucus, sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official websites] on Wednesday asking the FTC to investigate allegations that Facebook [website] is tracking users' activities even after they have logged out of the website [text, PDF]. Australian blogger Nik Cubrilovic [official website] broke the initial news [blog post] of Facebook tracking users and has since posted an update [blog post] stating that Facebook has since "changed as much as they can change with the logout issue." Nonetheless, the Congressmen cited a statement from Facebook Director of Engineering, Arturo Bejar, that fully fixing the logout issue "will take a while" in petitioning for a FTC investigation. They believe that Facebook's conduct possibly falls within 15 USC § 45 [text], section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act [text, PDF], which protects citizens from "unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce." The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [advocacy website] sent a letter to the FTC calling for an investigation into Facebook's conduct [letter, PDF; press release] as well. EPIC contends that Facebook is tracking user data so that it may sell the data to third-parties. EPIC also has a complaint about Facebook's facial recognition system [text, PDF], which automatically "tags" users when others upload photos of them, currently pending before the FTC.

The Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information [official website, in German] also filed a complaint over Facebook's facial recognition system in August, arguing that it violates European data protection laws [JURIST report]. In December South Korea stated that Facebook was not in compliance with the nation's data privacy laws [JURIST report]. The South Korean authorities especially took issue with Facebook's alleged policy of gathering users' data without first obtaining consent from them. The Canadian Office of the Privacy Commissioner [official website] announced in January 2010 that it would launch a probe [JURIST report] into complaints that the website was violating users' privacy. In August 2009 five Facebook users brought suit against Facebook in California, alleging that the social networking violated their privacy [JURIST report].

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