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Facebook tracking now under federal investigation

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Paul Sakuma/AP/FILE

(Read caption) Is Facebook tracking non-users too? The Senate investigates. Pictured, company CEO Mark Zuckerberg shows Timeline during the F8 conference in San Francisco, in September.

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Facebook tracking has become a perennial privacy issue, but this time, the US Federal Trade Commission is involved.

Last week, the FTC offered the social-network giant a settlement over a complaint that it had harmed users by changing privacy settings without warning. Under the settlement, Facebook would have to receive explicit permission from users before it shares any data collected under new terms – in essence, a repudiation of its hitherto standard of "opt-out" privacy changes. Now, users will need to "opt-in" to new changes.

The FTC first began investigating Facebook back in December 2009, after the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a consumer advocacy group, complained that Facebook had harmed its users by changing privacy settings in a way that encouraged them to reveal their names, photos, gender, and other personal information.

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