Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Facebook Privacy The Courts Your Rights Online News

US Congressmen: Facebook Evading Privacy Questions 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can't-handle-the-truth dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Two U.S. congressmen have accused Facebook of evading questions about whether it tracks users in order to deliver targeted ads. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, and Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the social networking giant failed to adequately answer questions raised by a patent application that suggests Facebook could be tracking users on other websites. The duo previously asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate accusations that Facebook tracks its users even after they log out of the social network, an issue the company says it has since fixed."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

US Congressmen: Facebook Evading Privacy Questions

Comments Filter:
  • Two U.S. congressmen have accused Facebook of evading questions about whether it tracks users in order to deliver targeted ads

    If they want answers, they should just check Facebook's "Facebook Ad Targeting" group page. I'm sure it's "leaking" all the answers they crave. /sarcasm

    • by hedwards (940851)

      I disagree, this is the correct course of action. Ultimately it could lead to subcommittee hearings and changes to the law. Of course that probably won't happen as politicians in the US care less about privacy than the millions of idiots that willingly give FB their private details, but it is hypothetically possible.

      Plus, if you don't talk with the execs running FB you can't scare them into reforming or get information that they haven't made public. I'm guessing that they've already read that page and found

  • by ElmoGonzo (627753) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @03:25PM (#38654626)
    And even after logging out a week ago, I find 2 cookies for "any type of connection" that won't expire for at least a year. They "fixed" it but good.
    • by SniperJoe (1984152) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @03:35PM (#38654766)
      I do believe that in Facebook's dictionary, "fixed" is defined as maintaining the same functionality using a different method, thus granting plausible deniability.
      • by tripleevenfall (1990004) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @03:42PM (#38654876)

        I don't know why regulators don't get this. Facebook's business IS farming personal information. The company's value is based on it. Their future expectations of profitability all depend on being able to sell it.

        Of course they will maintain the veneer of compliance, while still doing the exact same things. If they have to pay tribute to a politician or issue an apology, so what? Pennies in a fountain. They have the world's largest pile of the world's most valuable commodity.

        • by Osgeld (1900440)

          "They have the world's largest pile of the world's most valuable commodity."

          What? that Joe drinks miller and likes kinky dildo's?

          Its a bubble based on intangible information that only 2 cooperations seem to be interest in while the rest of the world instantly mental blocks their product as reflex

          • I agree here to some extent. Things like Joe drinks Miller has little use unless you can either convince Joe to drink something else, or convince Joe to buy more Miller from you. The information that is useful I think is the non-obvious. Say they were able to figure out that guys named Joe drinking Miller prefer trucks. Than they can sell that information and voila, Joe sees lots more truck ads than car ads everywhere he goes. Since it is an order of magnitude more valuable to have Joe click on an ad than j
      • by hedwards (940851)

        Well that is one of the definitions of fixed. As in fixed to the wall.

    • by ciantic (626550)
      If so, maybe they fixed it for US citizens only? Are you in US or elsewhere? After all why would they disable tracking for anyone else... There isn't legal pressure to do so.
  • 90% of what you see and hear is ads, only 10% is actual content!
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @03:27PM (#38654658) Journal
    Honestly, guys, it isn't that hard. Pretty much any question about facebook can be answered by asking yourself "If the NSA and the National Enquirer merged, what would they do?"
  • I think congress should look in the mirror when it comes to evading questions... or taxes for that matter

  • Adblock Filter (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @03:27PM (#38654676)

    ||facebook.com^$third-party,domain=~facebook.net|~fbcdn.com|~fbcdn.net
    ||facebook.net^$third-party,domain=~facebook.com|~fbcdn.com|~fbcdn.net
    ||fbcdn.com^$third-party,domain=~facebook.com|~facebook.net|~fbcdn.net
    ||fbcdn.net^$third-party,domain=~facebook.com|~facebook.net|~fbcdn.com

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Covers any program that is webbound, not just particular browsers that have AdBlock, per the subject-line above:

      (Add either of these lines to your hosts file using a text editor & be sure to save it as "hosts", not "hosts.txt" (notepad's NOTORIOUS for that)).

      ---

      127.0.0.1 fbcdn.net

      or

      0.0.0.0 fbcdn.net

      ---

      * The latter's actually smaller & faster, thus imo, is the better, more efficient option (that's just as universally compatible as the loopback adapter address, but smaller by 2 characters, & has n

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @03:32PM (#38654724)

    I'm way more worried about a government which now has free reign to spy on my phone calls, emails, etc. with no warrants and even gives retroactive immunity [wikipedia.org] to protect the telco's from any nasty civil rights lawsuits over this than I am about Facebook sending me some targeted ads.

    In short, a government that treats the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution like a piece of toilet paper is a lot more important a concern than Mark Zuckerberg trying to make a quick buck.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    . . .At this point, believe anything congress has to say? I hate Facebook, but come on. Congress cares about privacy? Give me a break. These guys have continually voted against privacy in the form of Patriot Acts, indefinite detention, warrantless wiretaps, etc. What is happening is Facebook just hasn't given the correct amount of "campaign contributions." When Facebook ponies up, you'll hear the tune change.

  • The best thing you can do about all this as an individual? TURN OFF THIRD-PARTY COOKIES. I've been browsing with third-party cookies disabled for the last six months, and am yet to find something I care about that doesn't work because I have them disabled. It protects your privacy and security, it eliminates various irritating bits of targeted advertising and the like, and most browsers have a "block third-party cookies" setting built in.
    • by Bill Dimm (463823)

      Is that really sufficient to thwart tracking by the Facebook "like" button? I thought the button was in an iframe, so the cookies wouldn't be considered third-party.

      • by Bill Dimm (463823)

        Please ignore the "I thought the button was in an iframe, so the cookies wouldn't be considered third-party." -- that was muddled.

        But, it seems that Webkit-based browsers allow third-party cookies to be read but not written [grack.com] when third-party cookies are "disabled." Facebook can presumably read the cookie (if the browser allows reading) to see who you are, and read the referrer URL for the iframe to see what webpage you were viewing, so it seems they can track you if disabling third-party cookies doesn't pro

  • It was the evil twins done put secret cookies in all my codes.

    -mark

  • 3rd-party cookies (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MobyDisk (75490) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @04:04PM (#38655128) Homepage

    3rd-party cookies are a contributing factor to some of these privacy violations.

    At what point did it become standard for browsers to accept 3rd-party cookies? The original cookie spec explicitly forbid them, and only reason that I know of to support them is to allow sites to track you across other domains. No web application, shopping cart, etc. should ever need to use them. Further, they seem like a terrible security flaw.

    I was surprised to find that Firefox enables this by default, and some web forums (Engadget) are even complaining if you turn them off. I think we need to nip this in the bug, but I am curious when and why this default changed.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      At what point did it become standard for browsers to accept 3rd-party cookies? The original cookie spec explicitly forbid them, and only reason that I know of to support them is to allow sites to track you across other domains. No web application, shopping cart, etc. should ever need to use them. Further, they seem like a terrible security flaw.

      Maybe browsers should have per-tab sandboxes for 3rd party cookies.
      You close the tab, the cookie gets wiped.

    • " No web application, shopping cart, etc. should ever need to use them."

      And how would you suggest keeping state over a stateless connection? The other options (hidden fields, or a GUID in the URL) are at best no more secure than using a session cookie, in many cases they are far riskier to use.

      Also, all modern browsers will only send a cookie to the same domain that set the cookie. Even if a facebook cookie is set on my browser, the browser will only send the cookie to the facebook domain... so unless
      • Re:3rd-party cookies (Score:4, Informative)

        by wdef (1050680) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:51PM (#38656522)

        Cookies are absolutely not the problem, the vast array of sites installing facebook tracking scripts on their pages is the problem.

        In which case, use http://www.ghostery.com/ [ghostery.com] to block trackers.

      • by MobyDisk (75490)

        Also, all modern browsers will only send a cookie to the same domain that set the cookie

        That is how they used to operate, and that is how they are supposed to operate. But enabling 3rd-party cookies means that this rule is disabled. And that is now the default in most browsers. I am trying to figure out when and why this changed.

  • by AtomicDevice (926814) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @04:07PM (#38655176)

    OF COURSE they track you to provide targeted ads, how else do you think they stay in business? Do you think they have a gigantic infrastructure just for your personal pleasure? While I fully support forcing facebook to divulge all the info they store on you (i.e. that gigantic PDF they'll send you on request), I also have no problem with them doing just about anything they want with data they collected. If you find that so incredibly repugnant, don't use facebook at all.

    This story to me is about the same as the headline "Pfizer dodges questions from senator that it 'sells drugs' to what they call 'patients'"

    Or perhaps "INTEL refuses to deny that it makes computer processors!"

  • Joe Barton:- You can’t lie, so tell me Mark, where is this user?

    Mark Zuckerberg:- Uh, hmm, well, uh, I don’t know where he’s not.

    Joe Barton:- Your telling me, you don’t know where this user is?

    Mark Zuckerberg:- It wouldn’t be inaccurate to assume that I couldn’t exactly not say that it is or isn’t almost partially incorrect.

    Edward Markey:- So you do know where he is?

    Mark Zuckerberg:- On the contrary. I’m possibly more or less not definitely rejecting the idea

  • Who thinks these congressmen are so vigorous to get up off their asses cause they have something extremely incriminating to hide? (That facebook might have?)

    • Wiener's schnitzel.
    • by CaptBubba (696284)

      I've said for a few years now that we will get meaningful privacy legislation only after a couple of present or up-and-coming politicians get their careers torpedoed by a 15 year old facebook post. Even better would be someone buying usage data, linking it up to politicians, and running advertisements about the websites they visit.

      • by Tokolosh (1256448)

        I am unlikely to hire or vote for anyone who been a perfect goody two-shoes his or her whole life. If I have to choose between two otherwise equally qualified candidates, I'm going to go with the one who is passed out with sharpie marks all over.

  • That's okay, anybody concerned about this can just not use Facebook. If they are really concerned, they could help the public and probably earn a bundle, too, by starting up a competitor that has better practices and expending their advertising funds educating the public as to why this is better.

    Meanwhile, my concern is people like Barton and Markey, who keep taking my money against my will, and meddling in things like this, all the while claiming to "represent" me. Unfortunately this is not so easily sol

  • Facebook is not "required" by anyone or anybody. It is purely voluntary. If you don't like what they are doing with what you post there or the information you provide them by using their FREE service, feel free to stop using it.
    • Simply stopping to use the site doesn't help. They still can match your browsing to your old fb account to track you. A lot (hundreds of millions) of people had accounts before this scandal broke. Simply "don't use it any more" isn't going to work since the accounts continue to exist until you delete them and a company that is less than ethical in tracking you might very well delete all data that you entered into your account without deleting the info they got from their tracking cookies and some sort of id
      • by MitchDev (2526834)
        Don't post stuff you don't want them to have...
        • It's not just posting. Once they have your personal details and a cookie on your computer they get your "stuff you don't want them to have" by tracking you wherever you go. That is the problem. I might like Zebra porn but don't want Zebra porn ads showing up magically wherever I browse. Most people are not /. types either so they don't even have a clue they are being tracked.

          • by MitchDev (2526834)
            Yes, but it's still limited to the personal details you give them. And while the tracking cookies are out of control, no more so than any other big, free site.
  • Why is it that our Congressmen are willing to criticize Facebook for privacy issues, but when it comes to SOPA, they just look the other way? Something is seriously wrong here.....
  • NOTHING on Facebook is private. If you remember this, then you're okay. If you can't figure this out, then ... well ... too bad for you.

  • I guess the same thing that happened to the phone telemarketers is going to have to happen with tracking web sites. They have clearly made it apparent they will not do anything until forced too.Well im all for that,how do we get it started? A law preventing tracking unless they ask first. We all have groceries store/Drug store saver cards. We allow them to track what we buy in exchange for lower prices. WOW thats a great Idea
  • All other problems having been solved, two Congresscritters are shaking Facebook down. Folks, if you use a "free" service, then the product being sold is you. That's the QPQ.

To err is human -- to blame it on a computer is even more so.

Working...