If the frictionless (read: permission-less) sharing involved with the new Facebook Timeline weirds you out a little, blogger Nik Cubrilovic has some more unsettling news for you. As it turns out, Facebook has cookies that will track the website you go to for its own purposes in addition to purposes that could arguably be for “sharing.” If you log out, the cookies are not deleted, but instead modified and will still able to track letting Facebook keep an eye on the websites you visit.
Cubrilovic had been working on a project involving fake Facebook accounts when he was tipped off to the situation. Despite the fact that his fake Facebook accounts were unconnected to his real account and that none of them were ever signed in simultaneously, Facebook started listing his real account as a suggested friend for his fake accounts. Facebook was keeping track of who was logging in and from where.
This isn’t the first time that people have started to get concerned about Facebook’s ability to track user activity, logged in or not. In fact, the German state Schleswig-Holstein outlawed embedded “like” buttons on its state websites for exactly that reason; they send information about the user on the site back to Facebook. The discovery that this behavior does not only apply to sites with Facebook functionality but just sites in general plus browser information is a little worrisome.
Since the story has been picked up and circulated, Facebook has not taken the opportunity to comment on the subject, and considering their notoriously sketchy terms of service, it’s not unlikely that somewhere along the line, you agreed to let them do this or something similar. For the time being, your choices when it comes to avoiding this monitoring are few. Either you can stop using Facebook all together, delete the cookies every time you use it, or browse Facebook in a separate browser (separate browser, not browser window).
There’s no telling how Facebook will respond to the issue, if it ever does, but in the meantime users are stuck with the choice of letting Facebook see their information or getting in the habit of performing a meticulous clean-up ritual. With any luck, maybe all this will inspire a nice, up-to-date, 3rd party Facebook client with an emphasis on user security. Either way, for now, just be aware that you’re being watched.
(via Sydney Morning Herald)