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Privacy Groups Ask FTC For Facebook Investigation 68

Posted by timothy
from the dear-mark-letter dept.
An anonymous reader writes "10 public-interest groups have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Facebook's various business practices. This demand comes right after two similar ones this week: two U.S. congressmen asked the FTC to investigate how Facebook's cookies behave, and Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner has agreed to conduct a privacy audit of Facebook. Given that the social network's international headquarters is in Dublin, the latter is the more serious one as the large majority of the site's users could be affected."
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Privacy Groups Ask FTC For Facebook Investigation

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    LIKE

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday October 02, 2011 @04:50PM (#37585020) Journal
    Short of discovering that each of Facebook's datacenters is actually a vast, nearly empty, mausoleum, lit only by the unhallowed glow of Masonic runes drawn in the blood of innocents and the blinding glare of the all-seeing-eye atop the pyramid in the center; could there be any revelation about their privacy practices worse than those that can already be inferred from prior activity?
    • by tech4 (2467692)
      I just hope someone at FBI and NSA remembered to notify FTC that it is their operation.
    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      Short of discovering that each of Facebook's datacenters is actually a vast, nearly empty, mausoleum, lit only by the unhallowed glow of Masonic runes drawn in the blood of innocents and the blinding glare of the all-seeing-eye atop the pyramid in the center; could there be any revelation about their privacy practices worse than those that can already be inferred from prior activity?

      I'm pretty sure that this revelation would be better than what we can already infer about Facebook, actually.

      • It is quite possible that the "Facebook Beacon" 'feature' that debuted I-don't-even-remember-how-many privacy controversies ago, was simply the public face of the installation of the eye-pyramids in each location...
    • by webheaded (997188)
      I hope they find out what they're doing and make sure they aren't breaking the law. If what they're doing is nasty but not breaking the law, I hope they share it so to shame them into doing something about it. Of course, I'm not sure that will matter but I'm fine with that. I barely post anything on Facebook anyway for this reason.
  • So, some politicos are going to investigate. They'll wave a magic wand of approval, or they'll wave a magic wand of disapproval. There's no way of knowing if this investigation will be good or bad. Maybe if we knew something about the individuals involved with the investigation, we could make some guesses.

    • by KiloByte (825081)

      Well, they need to put a little pressure if they want to ensure a solid flow of campaign donations.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Most likely what will happen is that a few Democratic congress critters will decide that FB is a significant threat to privacy beyond what one can reasonably expect and try to regulate it. Then the GOP will go apoplectic about ZOMG we can't regulate businesses, and prevent it from being elected.

      Of course that assumes that there are enough politicians in favor to get it past in the House or voted on in the Senate.

      • by bryan1945 (301828)

        I predict 100% stereotypical ranting from random people on the internet for both sides of the R vs. D debate.

    • by grcumb (781340)

      So, some politicos are going to investigate. They'll wave a magic wand of approval, or they'll wave a magic wand of disapproval.

      I hate to be the one to break it to you, but that's not a wand they're waving....

  • Are they just being cookie monsters and user trackers with their cookies and shoddy privacy policies, or are they actually committing crimes? What gives the various government groups, ones NOT in the executive branch, authority to conduct any of this?

    • Um, the EU has pretty tough data protection and privacy laws. Notice the part in TFA about how they're looking into FB in Dublin?
      Yeah, I know the UK doesn't consider itself to be EU, but still they have tougher laws than the US it seems. And the UK does have to have cross-agreements in place with the EU.

      As far as US investigation goes, I'm willing to bet a bunch of public and private figures would be nervous about their browsing habits...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Dublin is not in the UK.

      • by digitig (1056110)

        Yeah, I know the UK doesn't consider itself to be EU

        Er, I don't think you do know that [europa.eu]. The larger party in our coalition government wants us out, as do most of the press, but we're still in at the moment, and there are still plenty of us who like it that way.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Be that as it may, Dublin is in Ireland. Ireland is presently a completely independent country from the UK. Now, confusingly, the physical island of Ireland (sometimes called Hibernia) presently has two countries on it - Ireland, described as the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland. Only the latter is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The larger eastern island of Great Britain (sometimes called Britannia) has three countries on it - Scotland, Wales and England, and t

    • by Tom (822)

      This being an investigation they are trying to find answers to questions like the ones that you asked. What's wrong about that?

      • by bryan1945 (301828)

        Do not let your common sense interfere with the workings of Slashdot. It would disrupt the Force and give Yoda indigestion.

  • I have never had a Facebook account, and never will, because they add absolutely zero value over private listservs, forums, blogs, and websites.

    Google on the other hand, I use very much for searching and other services. And it seems to me that Google collects even more valuable information than Facebook.

    So why aren't these groups going after Google? ....

    • by kqs (1038910)

      One of them seems to sell your information to the highest bidder, regularly changes defaults to allow more sharing, and has many "partners" which grab your data and share if further.

      The other one collects information and uses it to show you advertisements, but doesn't seem to do anything else with it, and actively goes after people exploiting loopholes. And also gives an incredible amount of support to open-source projects. And provides many free services which are often superior to "pay" alternatives.

      The

      • by optimism (2183618)

        One of them seems to sell your information to the highest bidder...The other one collects information and uses it to show you advertisements, but doesn't seem to do anything else with it

        Yes, public perception of the companies is part of the answer. Followup question: How much does Google spend on PR to help create that perception?

        And provides many free services which are often superior to "pay" alternatives.

        Yes, that's another part of the answer, actually the part that motivates my use of Google search, mail, maps, and a few other services. These "free" services are sufficiently valuable that I accept "paying" for them by giving up my privacy. This is a conscious personal choice.

        The fact that people continually group the two in the same category shows that it doesn't matter how "well" a corporation behaves, people will still manufacture reasons to hate them.

        Oops, now you've jumped into the deep end of the crazy pool. Radical emotions like "hate"

  • I cancelled my Facebook account a few weeks back after their last round of changes. I have no intention of using it again. Both Facebook and Google track everything you do. I think both should get nailed. In all likelihood, some Congresscritters will be paid off and this investigation will go nowhere.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      I don't agree. Google keeps it's data to itself for the most part. The main reason is that it doesn't want people to know what algorithms its using to decide what ads to serve where. Plus, there's no reason for me to know what data there is that would be placing my ad in one place or another. The main thing that I would be caring about in that scenario is that it leads to enough click throughs to pay for the ads.

  • If you have a problem with your privacy on Facebook then simply don't use it.

    • The problem with that is that even if you have no FB account, they may still track you through the cookies built into their "like" buttons, spread around the internet.

      • Although you can always turn off cookies. But I can't say I've done that lately to know how that would affect today's web experience like turning off JavaScript does.

        • by hedwards (940851)

          You can, but why should you have to? Entering a web page does not provide permission to be tracked by random companies just because the webmaster put the code into the page to make it so. There is no reasonable expectation that permission is being granted for such 3rd party tracking.

          This is a bit like walking onto the premises of say Starbucks and being tracked by Walmart. You might be consenting to having Starbucks track transaction, but there's certainly no basis for Starbucks to believe that you're conse

          • Then don't accept the GPS tracker that Walmart hands you as you walk in the door, ditch it when you exit Walmart and they will never track your Starbucks usage...

            Which is basically exactly what is going on here - you accept a token from Facebook, and you give that token back whenever its asked for. All voluntarily.

        • Although you can always turn off cookies. But I can't say I've done that lately to know how that would affect today's web experience like turning off JavaScript does.

          Switching off all cookies is overkill for the issue described by GP. If you're using Firefox, it's sufficient to install an add-on such as Facebook Blocker [mozilla.org], which explicitly blocks all requests to Facebook which originate from non-Facebook sites. This obviously blocks tracking cookies from Facebook like-buttons on other sites, but does not interfere with your use of Facebook (if any; better to avoid Facebook sites completely).

          I assume you already have a strategy for wiping LSO Flash objects ("super cooki

      • by Culture20 (968837)
        And they encourage the people you know who use Facebook to identify you in pictures ("Do you know this person? Tag the photo!"). Once a person has had a few friends tag them, there's probably a pseudo-account created for them. Don't be surprised if Facebook starts asking "How do you know XYZ? With your photo." of anyone tagged in photos you're tagged in (whether you have an account or not).
  • In actuality, this is a Tax fiction, used to avoid taxation on their massive EU and US/Canada earnings, and there is pressure by the EEC, since Ireland's economy is failing due to lack of tax collection from the Rich and Corporations like FB, MSFT, etc, to restore tax levels to a more common historic level.

    But this does not provide them with a legal defense against violating National Privacy rights, as any Scientologist in Germany knows.

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