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US lawmakers accuse Facebook of ducking questions on its privacy practices

Gautham Nagesh The Hill 01/11/2012 19:59
US lawmakers accuse Facebook of ducking questions on its privacy practices - Technology - Facebook

Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) accused Facebook of evading questions about whether it tracks users in order to deliver targeted ads on Monday.

The co-chairmen of the Congressional Privacy Caucus said the social networking giant failed to adequately answer questions raised by the patent application that suggest Facebook could be tracking users on other websites. Facebook has denied tracking users, arguing its social plug-ins are voluntary.

“Facebook seems to be saying one thing and doing another,” Barton said. “In the company’s response, it talks a lot about how they don’t currently ‘track’ users online, but they just asked for a patent that would allow them to do just that. Why ask for something you don’t ever plan on using?"

The pair wrote Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in November about the patent application, referencing an earlier Hillicon report in which a Facebook spokesman insisted the firm "does not track people across the Internet." Facebook declined to comment for this article.

"The practice of obtaining patents on inventions without launching products based on them is common in the technology industry, and no conclusions should be drawn about a company's practices, products or services from the patents it files, acquires or holds in its portfolio," Facebook said in its response, released Monday.

“When provided the opportunity to share its privacy practices with members of Congress at our recent caucus forum, Facebook refused," Markey said. "Now Facebook seems to be refusing to answer the question of what the purpose of this patent application is."