Nov. 29, 2011: Markey, Barton Statement on Facebook Settlement with FTC

Lawmakers have investigated Facebook’s privacy practices, tracking its users on other websites, targeting advertisements
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), co-Chairmen of the Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, released the following statement today after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a settlement with Facebook over the company’s privacy practices.
I commend the Commission for pursuing privacy problems at Facebook and taking action to require the strengthening of safeguards that Facebook must apply to its users’ personal information,” said Rep. Markey. “The settlement will require Facebook to implement a range of much-needed privacy reforms, including implementation of a comprehensive privacy program with an independent assessment of its privacy and data protection practices for the next 20 years. The settlement’s privacy protections will benefit Facebook users and should serve as a new, higher standard for other companies to follow in their own efforts to protect consumers’ privacy online.
“When it comes to its users’ privacy, Facebook’s policy should be: ‘Ask for permission, don’t assume it.’
“Today’s settlement should not be the end of the company’s efforts to ensure user control over their own personal information on Facebook. I remain alarmed by a continuing pattern of privacy and security problems at Facebook. Earlier this month, Rep. Barton and I sent a letter to Facebook inquiring about a patent the company filed that could be used for tracking user information across the Internet. We need to know more about Facebook’s current and future plans to gather information about its users, and I look forward to receiving the company’s responses
,” concluded Rep. Markey.
“I am glad that the FTC has given much needed attention to Facebook’s practices and privacy policies,” said Rep. Barton. “Social networking is about connecting with friends, family members and customers. There is a level of trust involved that should not be violated. I was disappointed when Facebook made user profiles public by default and without adequate notice. The Commission and Facebook are both making a strong statement today with their settlement terms: consumer privacy matters. I hope that all websites operators will truly value the importance of online privacy.”
Earlier this month, the Congressmen queried Facebook about a February 2011 patent the company filed that described a method for tracking information about the activities of users across the Internet. In September, Reps. Markey and Barton urged the FTC to investigate Facebook after published findings reported that Facebook had been gathering information about the websites its users visited even after users logged out of Facebook.
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.