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Lawmaker to probe tracking by Facebook

November 17, 2011|Jessica Guynn

SAN FRANCISCO — Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said he would hold a hearing to look into reports that Facebook tracks its users on the Web after they log out.

"No company should track customers without their knowledge or consent, especially a company with 800 million users and a trove of unique personal data on its users," Rockefeller said in a statement Wednesday. "If Facebook or any other company is falsely leading people to believe that they can log out of the site and not be tracked, that is alarming."

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said the company uses cookies to personalize content and keep accounts secure.

"When someone logs off of Facebook, we delete certain cookies and reduce the amount of information we receive when the person visits websites that contain social plug-ins such as the Like button," he said in an emailed statement. "We have made these practices clear in our Privacy Policy and Help Center since the launch of social plug-ins. We appreciate Sen. Rockefeller's interest in protecting consumer privacy and look forward to discussing this with him."

He also said that Facebook does not sell users' information to third parties and deletes data or makes the user of it unidentifiable within 90 days.

Rockefeller was responding to an article in USA Today about Facebook tracking.

The issue was first raised in September. At the time, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and other privacy watchdogs asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Facebook's tracking of users after they log off the service to see if it harms consumers and invades their privacy.

Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) raised concerns in a Sept. 28 letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. The two lawmakers, who have aggressively pursued Facebook on privacy issues, said they were concerned that Facebook was tracking users without their permission.

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jessica.guynn@latimes.com

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