Facebook Tracks Your Behavior on The Web, Here is HOW TO Protect Yourself

Privacy would be of most importance to any internet user, and it would be very disappointing when you come to know that Facebook , which aims at making the social network your virtual home tracks what you have been doing on the web. Thanks to a post by Dave Winer at Scripting.com which explains how Facebook tracks your behavior on the web. I had already written how Facebook like and send button tracks your web activity. But this is something even more serious and something which might bother any normal Internet user. Since this issue is concerned with more than 800 million active users, it has to be big and must be a center of attention.

Issue With New Facebook Social Apps

Facebook statistics state:

On average, people on Facebook install apps more than 20 million times every day

Every month, more than 500 million people use an app on Facebook or experience Facebook Platform on other websites

This shows how Facebook apps play a vital role in your social life. But after the introduction of some new features on Facebook and the introduction of Timeline, the way you connect with these social apps has completely changed. Facebook asks for your permission to post updates on your timeline from an app only once. If you have permit the app to post updates to your timeline, all your updates from that app will be posted to your timeline without notifying you about it. A few days back I read an article on Washington Post Social Reader it came up on my timeline like this

App updates on Facebook timeline

After this, whatever I read came up on the timeline without any request for permission. This was not a big issue to me as I was reading news. But I would be bothered about these updates if I read about “How to make a girl pregnant:D I would not like it to be shown on my timeline and it is likely that some of my friends would see what I am reading about before I delete it! The situation might become much worse if you are watching a video that might perhaps be banned from being viewed in your country.

Apart from this, as already mentioned, any website which has a like button is sending over your information to Facebook about what you are reading. A simple solution to this is to log out of Facebook when you are not using it, avoid clicking like buttons or trying not to connect other services on the web with your Facebook Account.

Facebook had also continued keeping cookies on your browser which were altered when you log out of Facebook but not deleted. The cookie has your account Id in it and hence yor privacy had been at stake, until Facebook responded to it and fixed this issue. However, the fix works out only when you are logged out of Facebook. So here is how you can protect yourself from being tracked by Facebook even when you are logged in.

HOW TO Protect Yourself

You can clear all the cookies of Facebook.com in your browser every time you have used. However, this becomes inconvenient, hence you can try these various options if you do not wish any third party apps to send your data to Facebook.

Hide your Email Address From Third Party Apps

Hide Email Address from Facebook Apps

When you use an application for the first time on Facebook, you see a request for permission box, which shows what information from your profile will be shared with the app. You can read a previous post of mine following the link below:
HOW TO Hide Your Facebook Email Address From Third Party Apps

Facebook Privacy List For Adblock Plus

If you are already using AdBlock Plus on Chrome or Firefox, you can download the subscription form and add it to AdBlock Plus to block Facebook plugins and scripts all over the web. Doing this will not load Facebok like, send or share buttons on any site you visit and hence your browsing activity remains hidden from Facebook.

AdBlock Plus for Chrome

AdBlock Plus for Firefox

Facebook Disconnect [Chrome]

Facebook DisconnectFacebook Disconnect is a Chrome Extension which blocks Facebook from dropping those tracking cookies on your system and disables them (if already present) after you are finished using Facebook. You will be able to use Facebook normally but when you visit some other site, the like, send and share buttons will not be able to track your data.

Block Tracking Cookies from Facebook, Google, Twitter, Digg and Yahoo

disconnect-chromeDisconnect for Chrome and Firefox is a higher level security plugin which blocks tracking cookies from all the sites mentioned above. This is perhaps the best one as it shows all the blocked services in realtime. Facebook like and Google+1 might not work on other sites and would be blocked but you can still use these sites without any hassle. You can also specifically unblock these buttons if you really want to like or +1 a webpage. An alternative for this could be Priv3 for Firefox which does the same function.

Facebook says that they have got nothing to do with the tracking cookies and they just want its users to log into Facebook seamlessly at any time and easily share interesting content on the web with your friends.

I am glad to know that Facebook’s cookies do not contain the user’s account id after they are logged out but I would like to know how many of you actually log out of Facebook while browsing other sites? What are your thoughts about these issues and the way Facebook apps publish updates on your timeline without your explicit permission?

  • http://www.ipodtouch4g.net/ Rohit Batra

    privacy issue in facebook is getting more complex these days.. now even the Ticker in facebook is infringing privacy.. Facebook needs to think about their privacy policy again..

  • http://www.juliethejarhead.com Julie the Jarhead

    One tip: Log into Spybook — er, I mean Facebook — only from a public computer (library, internet cafe, etc.).

    Pain in the buttocks, I know, but privacy is a (female dog) to control.

  • http://www.vectorash.ro/victor-stanescu/ Victor Stanescu

    It’s unbelievable.. but in the same time I’m not surprised that Facebook will do just about anything to increase their earnings caring not about us (the users) and our right to privacy!!

    My take on this: http://www.vectorash.ro/facebook_tracking_activity_after_logoff/

  • http://www.johnanthonywhite.com/blog John A White

    Facebook definitely needs to at least let people know that tracking is taking place, especially to non-members off-site activities. The option to opt-in/opt-out to that particular tracking should be enforced. You have some good tips in here Lalit!

    • http://www.blogotechblog.com Lalit Indoria

      Thanks John :)