Find out how Facebook is screwing with your privacy (today) after the jump…
The web has been abuzz over the last week over Facebook’s new features / bugs and so forth. This story has nothing to do with that, though it may have a connection (more on this in a minute, bear with me here). But certain websites have also been abuzz over the last couple of days about a really interesting story hacker / entrepreneur Nik Cubrilovic posted on Sunday. Nik discovered that Facebook was following him (not a Twitter pun) around the internet even when he was logged out. Let’s go to the blockquote, which Nik felt was important enough to bold in his original piece:
“Even if you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit.”
Of course they do! That’s their entire business model! Knowing everything about you allows them to serve up those targeted ads that marketers pay extra for. Well done, capitalism.
However, you may not necessarily want FB tracking you everywhere. How are they doing it anyway? Nik did some developer snooping and noticed that logging out was only modifying the state of certain cookies in your browser, as opposed to de-activating them. Clever! Obviously, deleting your cookies is the way around this, but frankly, that can be a pain in the ass. Cookies have real uses.
Now it must be pointed out that FB is not tracking you wherever you go on the internet; it only tracks you on sites that have a FB share or like button or some other FB connection. So, they are tracking you wherever you go on the internet. Maybe it’s time to reconsider my “AddThis” buttons at the top of the post there.
Now what does this have to do with the new FB features? Well one of the new features is the “read, watch, listen” media app. What this app does is share whatever you’re reading (or watching or listening to I guess) on your FB page without you telling it to. No like button or anything. You can opt out of it I’m sure, but that’s a bit freaky. So basically FB is going to track you wherever you go and share everything you do. Sounds, uh, interesting?
And what does all this have to do with Canadian Internet Law? Well, you may not know it but a lot. In Canada, we have something called the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. It oversees the application of privacy laws in this country, but it is a pretty toothless organization. It can’t levy fines, and it can’t really order an organization to comply with the law. But even without some teeth, the current Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, was able to get FB to change its privacy settings back in 2009. Time to get to work again, Commissioner.
UPDATE – Nik has just posted a follow-up, where a FB engineer explains all the cookies and says they are fixing any bugs in there. Of course they are.