Facebook is watching you - even when you're NOT logged in!28-09-2011
Facebook has admitted that it monitors every single web page its members visit – even when they have logged out.
In its latest privacy blunder, the social networking site was forced to confirm that it constantly tracks its 750million users, even when they are using other sites. Most would assume that Facebook stops monitoring them after they leave, but technology bloggers have discovered this is not the case. In fact, data is regularly sent back to the social network’s servers – helping Facebook make billions of pounds each year from advertising, as such information is highly valuable.
The website’s practices were exposed by Australian technology blogger Nik Cubrilovic and have provoked a furious response across the internet. Mr Cubrilovic found that when you sign up to Facebook it automatically puts files known as ‘cookies’ on your computer which monitor your browsing history. Some cookies remain on your computer after you log out, and report back when you visit a site connected to Facebook. This covers millions of websites and refers to anything with a Facebook ‘like’ or ‘recommend’ button on it. The data that is sent back is the IP address, or unique identifier of your computer, and a log of what you have been viewing.
Mr Cubrilovic wrote: ‘Even if you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit. The only solution is to delete every Facebook cookie in your browser, or to use a separate (web) browser for Facebook interactions. This is not what ‘logout’ is supposed to mean’.
The admission is the latest in a series of privacy blunders from Facebook, which has a record of only correcting such matters when they are brought to light by other people. Earlier this year it stopped gathering browser data from users who had never even been to Facebook.com after it was exposed by a Dutch researcher. The site was forced into a partial climbdown over changes to privacy settings which many claimed made too much public. It also came under attack for launching a ‘stalker button’ which allowed users to track another person’s every move in a list which was constantly being updated.
Arturo Bejar, one of Facebook’s directors of engineering, admitted that users continue to be tracked after they log out but said that the data was deleted right away. He said it was to do with the way the ‘like’ feature works, which is a button users can click on to show they like something. He said: ‘The onus is on us is to take all the data and scrub it. What really matters is what we say as a company and back it up.’
On technology blog CNET, however, users were outraged at what was going on.One wrote: ‘Who the hell do these people think they are? ‘Trust us?’ Why? Why should we trust a company that spies on us without our knowledge and consent?’ Another added: ‘Holy wow.... they've just lept way past Google on the creepy meter’. According to U.S. reports Facebook has recently set up its own Political Action Committee, an American term for a lobbying outfit to get its views heard on Capitol Hill.
So far this year it has already spent £352,000 on lobbying, already ahead of last year’s total of £224,000. The website has also been forced to deny Internet rumours it will begin charging for its services and said it will ‘always be free’. A spokesman for Facebook said that the login and log out measures were designed for security and were there to prevent fraud. He added: ‘We to do not use this information to target adverts’.
By: Tene Sommer
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