Facebook Warning

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by biguy2738, Dec 12, 2007.

  1. biguy2738

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    Facebook Is Always Watching You
    By Betsy Schiffman EmailDecember 04, 2007 | 11:58:55 PMCategories: Facebook

    Amid heightened concerns surrounding Facebook's new advertising platform, the social networking site has given users a new reason not to trust it: Researchers recently busted the company for tracking users activities on external sites, even after they logged out of Facebook.

    "Facebook is retrieving enough information that they can tie what you do on external sites back to your Facebook profile," says Stefan Berteau, a research engineer with CA. "[The company] says it's deleting the data it gathers after you've logged out, but that is not clearly spelled out in its privacy policy, and there isn't a binding public commitment."

    A Facebook spokesperson wasn't immediately available to comment.

    The discovery has come at a pretty rotten time for Facebook, which is still making amends with the public for its controversial ad platform called Beacon. The platform launched last month and immediately earned the ire of users because of a fairly objectionable feature: When Facebook members shopped on advertisers' external sites, their friends were automatically notified of their purchases, often before they knew that the notifications were sent out. After fierce public outcry, Facebook modified the system last week so users now have to click "OK" before a notification is sent out to friends about a transaction.

    While most web sites cannot track users after they log out, Facebook can gather extremely detailed profiles of users' shopping habits based on data it gathers from its advertising partner sites. The company can also link individual user's shopping habits to individual Facebook profiles, which typically contain detailed personal information.

    In order to collect data from external sites, Facebook gives Beacon advertisers a piece of code that they run on specific web pages (such as order confirmations). The code is used to transmit data between the advertisers' sites and Facebook's servers. If a user clicks on the "Remember Me" box when logging in to Facebook, the cookies that are stored locally on his computer will also store data about his activities on Beacon advertisers' sites.

    Although this development may be somewhat alarming, it's not entirely shocking. Many e-commerce sites and web advertisers have used cookies to track users online for years now. The threat could also be somewhat overstated: Facebook can only gather user data from advertisers who signed up to use Beacon (such as Overstock.com and Epicurious.com); and Facebook cannot collect data on users if they are surfing external sites that are not part of Facebook's advertising network.

    It's fairly easy to block Facebook, too, according to Berteau: Don’t click the "Remember Me" box when signing into Facebook and regularly clear cookies. Users can also download a Firefox plugin that blocks data transmission between advertiser sites and Facebook.


    UPDATE: Facebook has finally offered users the chance to turn off all Beacon notifications. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, also apologized: "Instead of acting quickly, we took too long to decide on the right solution. I'm not proud of the way we've handled this situation and I know we can do better."
     
  2. D_Geffarde Phartsmeller

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    Wonderful. More reasons to hate the internet. Why does every company have to use shadiness as a business tactic?? What happened to honesty?? What happened to success through ingenuity and creativity???
     
  3. SteveHd

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    It's really an old tactic. The article alludes to that:
    Many e-commerce sites and web advertisers have used cookies to track users online for years now.
    Advice:
    • Never use "remember me".
    • Never allow third-party cookies.
     
  4. Charles Finn

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    oh please this is not new
    we have been spied on since the 40's
    you are watched every where you go and everything you do
     
  5. D_Geffarde Phartsmeller

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    Are you really that paranoid??
     
  6. DocHolliday

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    Thanks for the post! Given Microsoft's record for violating user privacy (see Microsoft .NET Passport) why isn't it surprising that their new business partner gets caught pulling the same shenanigans.
     
  7. D_golden parachute

    D_golden parachute New Member

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    I don't really care :)
     
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