Facebook tracking non users

Facebook finally confirmed that it does actually track non-users. The tracking process begins when a user initially visits a facebook.com page.

Facebook inserts two different types of tracking cookies in your browser:
Members get a “session cookie” and a “browser cookie” AND non-members get a “browser cookie”.

This means that every time you visit a third-party webpage that maintains a “Like” button or other Facebook plug-in, the plug-in essentially triggers the browser cookie that alerts Facebook of the date you visited the site, the time, the web address of the webpage you clicked on and other unique PC and browser settings including your IP address, screen resolution size, browser version etc… All of this information from a non-Facebook member!

This information is ‘stated’ to be kept for 90 days as a continuously running log where oldest days are replaced with the newest activity.

Logging onto Facebook (members) is when the session cookie captures additional information. The session cookie records your name, e-mail address, friends and all data associated with your Facebook profile.

“No company should track customers without their knowledge or consent, especially a company with 800 million users and a trove of unique personal data on its users.” – US Senator Jay Rockefeller

Facebook is already being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission regarding its use of cookies, amongst other things, and Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner alleges Facebook was creating “shadow profiles” of non-users.

Why is this becoming a problem for the average internet user? Nir Zuk, founder and chief technology officer for Palo Alto Networks summarises this situation well:

“The concern is that Facebook has rich personal information, which Google doesn’t have, combining that personal information with Web browsing patterns could be revelatory.”

Facebook’s technology could potentially be used to build extensive profiles of individual Web users.

“Whoever visits Facebook or uses a plug-in must expect that he or she will be tracked by the company for two years. Such profiling infringes German and European data protection law.” – Thilo Weichert

Web pages containing Facebook plug-ins carry out more extensive tracking than Facebook publicly admits to.
Read Source Arnold Roosendaal & Nik Cubrilovic research

Roosendaal also says Facebook’s tracking cookies retain the capacity to extensively track non-members and logged-off members alike.

“They have been confronted with the same issue now several times and every time they call it a bug. That’s not really contributing to earning trust.”

NOTE – Facebook recently applied for a U.S. patent for technology that includes a method to correlate tracking data with advertisements.
Tuesday 29 November 2011 – Facebook Settles FTC Charges That It Deceived Consumers By Failing To Keep Privacy Promises
Facebook is settling with US regulators over charges it deceived consumers with its privacy settings to get people to share more personal information than they originally agreed too!

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s pattern on privacy is clear. Launch new stuff that pushes the boundaries of what people consider comfortable. Apologize and assure users that they control their information, but rarely pull back entirely, and usually reintroduce similar features at a later date when people seem more ready for it. Source – The Apologies of Zuckerberg: A Retrospective by Liz Gannes


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