In late September, an Australian technology blogger broke the news that Facebook was collecting data on over 800 million global users — even when the users were logged out of their Facebook accounts. Although Facebook initially denied the unauthorized tracking and made excuses as to why cookies were sending back information on signed out users, the company eventually changed the logout procedure to depersonalize information after a user logged out.
However, when the issue resurfaced last month, the privacy concerns and Facebook’s PR nightmare continued. The same tracking cookie was once again tracking Facebook users’ activities on sites with the Facebook plugin while the users were logged out. Now, Facebook is stating that they have corrected the problem, but many Facebook users and privacy advocates remain skeptical that the resolution is adequate.
As a result of the tracking cookies collecting data while users were signed out, the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus and 10 privacy advocate groups petitioned the FTC to investigate Facebook. In addition, Facebook is currently facing lawsuits due to allegedly violating multiple states’ wiretapping laws with the tracking cookies.
To complicate matters further, Senator Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from West Virginia and chairman of the Commerce Science and Transportation Committee, told The Hill the following in an interview:
“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. 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.”
In addition to the above statement, Rockefeller said that he takes “a hard line on protecting consumer privacy” and recently announced that he will be holding a hearing to investigate claims that Facebook violated users’ privacy in the near future.