QuickBitz – Facebook snooping on me?

Love it or loathe it, Facebook is a phenomenon that’s here to stay it seems and of course this is in spite of numerous privacy concerns that are being raised. I applaud the concept of Facebook in bringing people together and letting those people share their lives more, but as with many things in this world, it seems that the Facebook ‘experience’ is gradually being poised by the corporate desire to profit.

There’s a mentality in many corporations today that says … “Let’s trick the customer into giving us something, before we give them anything in return”. So corporations will default any setting to what benefits them first, and the customer second – and the internet is full of it. How often have to seen statements like:

  • Tick the box if you do not want to receive information from our partners

Or even the old tricky double negatives to bamboozle you, like:

  • Untick the box if you do not want us to not share your details with our business partners.
What’s more, it’s usually in a tiny font and is light grey to make it as difficult as possible to see!

But I digress, yes Facebook is doing it TO its customers – sharing their information with all and sundry unless they are very well informed and choose to laboriously opt out of this monetization of their private lives. Yes I have a Facebook page, but I must have logged into it once in the last six months simply to opt out of everything I could when I read the news about the latest privacy issues. At least I thought I had…

You see as I was browsing a website the other day, up popped a file dialogue in Firefox asking me if I wanted to open or save a file called ‘like.php’. What on earth? I hadn’t clicked on any link on the page, it was just spontaneous, and I promptly clicked the cancel button as I had no interest in this file, but it was not before I noticed where the file was coming from – http://www.facebook.com.

A week passes and I’m browsing a page on TechCrunch and just a few seconds after Firefox opens the page, up pops another dialogue window. This time I had the wits to capture it before dismissing it, and here it is…

Facebook Opening login_status.php-1

Facebook spying on me? Surely not...

So Facebook is tracking me. Any website that I visit that has the new Facebook ‘Like’ button, will register my presence and presumably report back to Facebook towers (without me even clicking on the Facebook ‘like’ button). The premise is that if I’m logged on to Facebook at the time, then Facebook can capture information about what websites I’m visiting, for whatever nefarious purposes they have (well I say nefarious, but they will argue some tosh about ‘serving our customers better’). Trouble is, I wasn’t logged in to Facebook at the time and I checked this by going to Facebook where I was prompted to login.

So what is going on? Well something obviously, and whether it’s scripts on pages that run automatically (all the more reason to install NoScript) or 3rd party cookies being examined, who knows. One thing is for certain though – if you have a presence on Facebook, then regardless of what you might think your privacy settings are, information about you WILL leak out, so as a good rule of thumb, don’t put anything on Facebook that you wouldn’t want the whole world to know (including people who may not have your best interests at heart). What’s more, if you are logged in to Facebook, then don’t visit any other websites that you wouldn’t want your friends and family to know about. Imagine your best friend getting a notice saying “Hey, your friend Jim visited our website to check out our Super Strength Bottom Itch Cream, so here’s a special offer…”!

Of course it’s not just Facebook who are interested in who you are and what you do, it’s just that Facebook is privy to more of your private data that many other companies. You should think of surfing the internet rather like walking down the high street of your local town. Now imagine that there are high resolution CCTV cameras outside every shop that can see your every move and hear your every word. All that information is then gathered up and processed and used to try and sell you more products and services (or in the case of Facebook, to sell you and your friends more products and services).

Of course if thy did this on the high street (which in the UK isn’t so far off the mark), then you’d object. But on the internet…