Legislators question Facebook over tracking patent

Anyone who follows the tech world knows many granted patents are for software, hardware or methods that will never actually come to market.

Indeed, many of these patents are little more than a strategy of blocking other firms from using the tech – or an attempt to force other companies to pay licensing fees.

But now congressional representatives Edward Markey (D-Mass) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) have accused Facebook of refusing to answer questions related to a tracking patent designed to serve targeted ads.

As Gautham Nagesh of The Hill notes, the legislators claim it makes no sense for a company to file for a patent on technology that it doesn’t plan to use – especially as Facebook has repeatedly denied tracking users.


“Facebook’s 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?”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to the legislators by emphasizing that it is quite common in the tech world to file for patents on concepts you have no intention of using.

As noted above, the patent outlines a way for Facebook to track its users when they are on other websites. In the past, the FCC has been asked to investigate Facebook privacy practices.

Markey, however, appeared unsatisfied with Facebook’s response.

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