Skip to main content

Markey, Barton Ask FTC to Chew on Supercookies Issue

The co-chairs of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus have asked the FTC to investigate the use of 'supercookies' to collect personal data and track web users' movements.

In a letter to the commission, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said they wanted to know what it has done, or plans to do, about investigating the use and impact of supercookies under the FTC's authority to protect consumers against unfair and deceptive practices.

Barton said not long after the Wall Street Journal's article on the subject, that such cookies should be outlawed and Markey said he was disturbed by their use to collect "vast amounts" of information without the users knowledge. "Companies should not be behaving like supercookie monsters, gobbling up personal, sensitive information," said Markey.

The pair were particularly concerned because they said the supercookies could not be deleted by consumers and could be used to re-create a user profile if other cookies are deleted.

Markey and Barton have teamed up to back legislation protecting online privacy and giving consumers more choice over how their information is used to track and market to them.  In May they teamed up on a bill that would prevent online tracking of kids.

To read the letter, click here.

"We have noted the importance of providing consumers transparency and choice when it comes to information-sharing practices," said Maneesha Mithal, Assistant Director of the FTC's Privacy and Identity Protection Division, in response to the letter. "We have also emphasized -- through several enforcement actions -- that when companies provide choices, they should honor them. So no matter what the technology, tracking should be consistent with the principles of transparency and choice."