Privacy Groups Push Back Against Latest Facebook Tracking Scheme

A transnational group of privacy and consumer advocates is calling on the Federal Trade Commission and the Irish Data Protection Commission to shut down Facebook’s new web-tracking program, which it says violates established privacy agreements and in fact punishes users who are “most diligent about their privacy.” 

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In a letter (pdf) sent Tuesday, the London-based Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) — a network whose members include the US-based Center for Media and Democracy, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Public Citizen, as well as several European rights groups — expressed “deep alarm” about the “vast expansion” of Facebook’s data collection practices, which the company announced in a blog post last month.

TACD describes the new policy:

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According to reporting in AdAge, Facebook said it would not honor do-not-track browser settings (as Twitter and Pinterest do), and would begin using browser histories and Facebook widgets on third-party sites to collect information to further target advertising. Users who don’t want to be tracked were advised to opt-out using the third-party service Digital Advertising Alliance, or on mobile devices using iOS or Android controls. 

The TACD letter calls this “an imperfect opt-out method” that puts unnecessary onus on the user: “[E]ven consumers who work to exercise their ability to opt out must remain vigilant, even after taking the appropriate privacy precautions.”

What’s more, the whole scheme bears uncanny similarities to a controversial program Facebook attempted to roll out in 2007, TACD said.

More than 132,000 people have signed onto a new petition in response to the latest revelations.

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