Groups Call on Feds to Stop Facebook Tracking

Privacy groups want regulators to investigate Facebook's practice of tracking users when they are on other websites and apps.



Facebook recently announced that it will improve ad targeting by tracking users when they are on other websites and apps. Now, privacy groups in the U.S. and Europe are calling on government regulators to investigate the practice.

In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission and the Irish Data Protection Commission today, a coalition of consumer groups and privacy advocates in the U.S. and Europe ask commissioners to “order Facebook to reverse its new data collection practice and develop public accountability mechanisms for the company to ensure it is complying with required privacy practices.”

The letter calls on regulators to “act immediately” to suspend Facebook’s initiative and determine whether it is in line with U.S. and European laws.

Facebook’s tracking expansion plans may be in violation of a 2011 settlement the company made with the FTC. In the letter, the groups compared the current initiative to Facebook’s controversial “Beacon” program in 2007. Facebook abandoned the program after users began suing over privacy violations.

The groups’ letter also says Facebook’s new “ad preferences” tool, which lets users understand the rationale behind which ads they’re seeing and allows them some level of control over what they are exposed to in the future, is not an adequate privacy setting.

“Users cannot control the data collection that results in targeted advertising; users can only control how much targeted advertising they must look at.”

The groups have asked the commissioners to make their findings publicly available. Some of undersigned include the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Center for Digital Democracy and the Brussels-based European Consumer Organization (BEUC).