In 2009, EPIC, a privacy group, filed a privacy complaint about Facebook with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This prompted the FTC to announce last month an agreement where Facebook must create a comprehensive privacy program, delete content after termination of a user account, and do comprehensive privacy audits every two years. If Facebook fails to comply, it faces millions of dollars in fines.
Unfortunately, after obtaining privacy sanctions against Facebook, EPIC announced today that it considered the agreement a “FAIL” and launched a campaign to demand additional sanctions on Facebook.
I visited EPIC’s site to learn more about their new demands. EPIC demands the FTC to “prevent Facebook from secretly tracking users across the web.” That sounds scary, but EPIC never explains what it means by “secret tracking.” I found only one reference to tracking, secret or otherwise, buried in a 2010 EPIC complaint about Facebook’s cookies. So I can only assume that by “secret tracking” EPIC means Facebook reading their cookies when users visit other sites. But it wasn’t until I thought more about these Facebook cookies that I realized why EPIC hid their explanation of “secret tracking.”
It’s because Facebook cookies are neither bad nor “secret.” Rather, Facebook cookies make your online experience better. Heck, EPIC’s own website uses Facebook cookie technology to help visitors “Like” the EPIC Facebook Page.
EPIC’s own website uses the same Facebook “secret” cookie to let its fans Like their site.
For instance, Facebook’s cookies save you from needing to remember dozens of passwords when you visit your favorite websites. Remember a few years ago when so many sites required you to create a unique user ID and password? Now you can use your Facebook account to access sites like the NewYorkTimes.com, HuffingtonPost.com, and FoxNews.com.
And when you visit these sites, Facebook’s cookie makes sharing your favorite articles, videos, blogs, photos, and sites with friends as easy as clicking one button.
The benefits of the Facebook cookie are not just your sharing with friends, but also your Facebook friends sharing with you. When accessing the HuffingtonPost.com you are greeted with a list of articles your friends liked. On FoodNetwork.com, you can see recipes your friends recommended. And searching through the Bing search engine produces search results more likely to be what you are searching for.
What’s the “secret” to making all these features work? They do it with … cookies.
Once I realized these benefits of Facebook’s cookies, I realized why EPIC’s website didn’t explain what they meant by Facebook’s “secret tracking.” It’s because these cookies aren’t secret, they’re sensational! Before Facebook cookies, never could I so easily share so much with my friends.
Come to think of it, most of us “Like” what Facebook’s cookies do for us and will have to let the FTC know that a handful of EPIC privacy zealots don’t speak for 800 million Facebook users.
- A Golf Clap for the FTC and Facebook (netchoice.org)
- Hi, My Name Is … (netchoice.org)
- Just in Time for Halloween: Privacy Advocates Say Cookies are Scary (netchoice.org)
- Stay Thirsty, My Friends at Facebook (netchoice.org)
- Now It’s Facebook’s Turn For 20 Years Of FTC Privacy Audits (searchengineland.com)