U.S. Representatives Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) have written a September 26, 2011, letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Jon Leibowitz, expressing concern over the practices used by some Web services to track online behavior. The congressmen, who co-chair the Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, cited an August 18 Wall Street Journal article that raised questions about “supercookies,” files installed on computers which apparently allow Websites “to collect detailed personal data about users” and which persist “even when consumers choose to delete regular cookies.” Believing that such practices should be banned, Barton and Markey call on FTC “to investigate the usage and impact of supercookies on the Internet and consumers.”
“We believe that an investigation of the usage of supercookies would fall within the FTC’s mandate as stipulated in Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act with respect to protecting Americans from ‘unfair and deceptive acts or practices,’” wrote Barton and Markey, who in a separate letter asked FTC to single out Facebook after a blogger drew attention to its tracking tools. The congressmen drew particular attention to Facebook’s alleged use of “Like” buttons across the Internet to collect information “even after its users had logged out of Facebook.”
“I am very disturbed by news that supercookies are being used to collect vast amounts of information about consumers’ online activities without their knowledge,” said Markey in a September 27 press release. “Companies should not be behaving like supercookie monsters, gobbling up personal, sensitive information without users’ knowledge. Consumers, not corporations should have the choice about if, how or when their personal information is used. I will continue to closely follow this issue and look forward to the FTC’s response.” See Representative Markey Press Release, September 28, 2011.