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Facebook's 'Like This' Button Is Tracking You 273

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the of-course-they-are dept.
Stoobalou submitted a story about some of the most obvious research I've seen in a while ... "A researcher from a Dutch university is warning that Facebook's 'Like This' button is watching your every move. Arnold Roosendaal, who is a doctoral candidate at the Tilburg University for Law, Technology and Society, warns that Facebook is tracking and tracing everyone, whether they use the social networking site or not. Roosendaal says that Facebook's tentacles reach way beyond the confines of its own web sites and subscriber base because more and more third party sites are using the 'Like This' button and Facebook Connect."
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Facebook's 'Like This' Button Is Tracking You

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  • No surprises here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by korkwin (1648679) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @02:03PM (#34391414)
    This is nothing new. We've all known this.
    • Sounds like any ad service like double click or whatever or analytic services.
      • by sarysa (1089739) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @02:37PM (#34392020)
        Some people seem to have the delusion that companies actually care about who you are and why you're clicking this and that, but they only care about your statistics. They want to know that single white 27 year old female likes Lady GaGa, not that Janet Doe likes Lady GaGa...
      • Re:No surprises here (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Nightlight3 (248096) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @02:51PM (#34392274)

        It's trivial to block this -- just add a batch file nofb.bat that replaces your host file with the one that has facebook redirected to 127.0.0.1. If you use fb and wish to actually go there, you can have another bat file, gofb.bat which changes host file back to the one with facebook entry commented out (the bat file may call a little executable that flushes local DNS cache on your machine by resolving the affected domain name). In general case, if you wish to do this selectively for n tracking sites, with n>1, you will need one bat file that blocks all of them and one for each site that has just one site site unblocked, hence you need n+1 bat files. Also, going to any of the tracking sites to use their services will also cost you an extra click for in and out.

        Note that google, digg and many others are doing the same kind of tracking, whether you subscribe to their site or not. You get ID on their servers attached to your cookies, tracking your visits anywhere where their bug is placed. That way they can sell to some site A which you are visiting now the fact that you have also visited sites B, C, D, ... earlier (when and how many times each, what kind of content you used there, etc). Of course, if the tracking servers know who you are, they can also sell that info to sites A, B, C..., at a higher price.

        • by bhcompy (1877290)
          Or you can use noscript and enable it on the fly in the browser, which is a lot more efficient than running through a batch file
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Magic5Ball (188725)

          Simpler way:
          Block www.facebook.com and facebook.com (which serve the offsite like buttons and such).
          Allow m.facebook.com (which doesn't serve like buttons or any scripts).

          The result is an ad-free light-weight facebook page without app spam in the feeds, faster page loads off-site, and no Flash cookies or other persistence, without batch file hackage.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by oldspewey (1303305)

          It's trivial to block this --

          I'll give you $100 if you can somehow explain this process to my barely-computer-literate-but-facebook-loving relatives.

        • Firefox equipped with NoScript and Adblock Plus will do 99% of that without having to write code.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yep. I've been aware of this long before Facebook even added that feature. After all, this is the reason that most email programs/sites don't display images by default because spammers use it to verify/track email addresses.

      The stupid thing is that the websites just give Facebook the free space without getting anything in return. FaceBook has a free ad on every single page that sites display the Like button on, and all the site gets is the chance that the user will add it to their list of liked things, and

      • by krazytekn0 (1069802) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @02:14PM (#34391600) Homepage Journal

        I'm tired of Facebook, but there really is no good alternative.

        There is being social in person...but that's a little strange for us I admit

      • The stupid thing is that the websites just give Facebook the free space without getting anything in return. FaceBook has a free ad on every single page that sites display the Like button on, and all the site gets is the chance that the user will add it to their list of liked things, and maybe--if the stars align--their addition will be reflected in someone else's feed and make it go viral.

        This is mutual advertising. I understand why sites add the like and share this buttons.

        I know people see the stuff I mark liked because I have lost "friends" over it :)

        • by gorzek (647352)

          Yeah, that's what I use it for: advertising. Not to make money from it, either, but rather just to get the word out.

          If someone is not a Facebook member I wonder exactly what they're so worried about, though. As mentioned, Google and DoubleClick and other analytic services do the same thing with your anonymized data, and in return you get statistics about the people visiting your site. That's what companies who base their revenues on advertising do. They all want to track you and aggregate your data so they

      • Re:No surprises here (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rwa2 (4391) * on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @02:49PM (#34392232) Homepage Journal

        Meh, facebook is just connective tissue; grey matter. I don't really use it all that differently from twitter... actually most of my FB posts come from twitter.

        The real content gets posted to Slashdot, LiveJournal, Blogspot, Flickr, Picasa, Youtube, etc., sometimes even Buzz. Twitter / FB are just open / closed syndication engines for that content, sort of like a consolidated form of RSS with some extra integration features.

        Relevant to the actual subject, StumbleUpon has always provided a much better "Like" button... since it includes a "don't like" button and actually does something useful with the information you provide by giving you more random links that you would probably like based on what you have in common with the other people who liked that link.

        Strangely, I have no desire to share this StumbleUpon "like" information with the rest of my IRL friends on FB / twitter, partly because our pr0n tastes can be quite different, but in general I just don't care to share links as a feed. If there's an article someone should read, I send them a directed email. If I find something funny, I might go so far as to post it to our IRC channel.

        Come to think of it, I think FB / Twitter might just be some sort of gap filler for people who don't lurk on IRC.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by RenderSeven (938535)

        I'm tired of Facebook, but there really is no good alternative.

        I'm tired of Facebook because it needs no alternatives. Narcissists may need an outlet but they always have, but I dont need to be part of their constant need for attention. The one thing I thank Facebook for, is teaching me that my 'friends' have boring lives, and they have as little real interest in my life as I do in theirs. I find myself encouraged to go DO things that are worth posting, and having DONE something really worthwhile the reward has nothing to do with posting it on Facebook.

    • by cupantae (1304123)

      Exactly. Can we get a !news tag on this?

    • by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @02:25PM (#34391798) Journal
      *CaptainPatent likes this*
  • Naw, really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drunkennewfiemidget (712572) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @02:04PM (#34391426) Homepage

    I'm not a doctoral candidate, and I could have told you that.

    Facebook's primary objective is data collection and selling it to marketers. It's kind of what they do.

  • Wait so... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Haedrian (1676506) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @02:04PM (#34391442)
    Facebook is actually using personal data and information which its collecting for me... in order to make profits? Facebook is tracking me in order to learn more about me?

    Who would have thought that an innocent company like Facebook, with no privacy issues ever - would stoop to that?

    I am shocked! This internet thing is so new to me.
  • If you even have a facebook session going - and the controls for a "Like this" button are on the page, I wouldn't be surprised if that information gets stored.

    "Hey you're logged in! Hey this control knows you're logged in, so it'll work instead of redirecting you to login. Hey, why don't we just send information back to facebook that you visitted this page, even if you didn't hit the like button!"

    Would this shock anyone? I haven't proven it but its not far off nor technically impossible. In fact it's pretty

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @02:05PM (#34391474) Journal

    Facebook's 'Like This' Button Is Tracking You

    I now feel I have the courage to speak out about what happened one month ago.

    I was walking home from a late night shift and noticed a glassy aero blue vehicle drive by me slowly. I couldn't see inside through the blue glass reflection but the vehicle moved at an ominous pace. I quickened my pace and made hast for my house now only five blocks away. I broke into a run at four blocks, I was so close to home and safety. But I heard the squeal of tires on pavement behind me and my pulse spiked. I covered the next two blocks as fast as the wind but the blue vehicle was faster. It pulled up onto my lawn in front of me and the doors opened as I ran by it. I didn't look, I couldn't look at them but I heard pixelated fingers running through the grass as I scrambled to find the key to open my front door.

    I opened the door and turned around to slam it shut but there was a blocky thumb that caused it to bounce back. My wife came in to see what the commotion was about and screamed as the first hand with its blue cuff and erect them grabbed my ankle and tripped me. "Get the children to the panic room" I screamed. And in ten seconds my family was safe but I still grappled with the blue shaded hand holding me down mercilessly as three more hands with blue cuffs came in through the open door. Another held down my other ankle as the third raised his cuff to expose his fully erect thumb. The fourth pulled my pants down and I screamed in agony as I was viciously sodomized in my own living room while my family watched from the panic room camera. For hours it went on while the fourth Facebook 'Like' hand sat their smoking a cigar, laughing and rubbing his thumb and forefinger together when I asked why they were doing this to me. Why? Again, they rubbed their thumbs together with their fingers signifying money.

    The police said I was powerless, I had given up my right when I had clicked through the Terms of Service to join Facebook. Zuckface could do whatever he wanted to do to me and I was powerless. The policemen told me to go back to my Farmville and watch my crops and just be happy the 'like' hands had left me alive, at least the Zuck had shown some mercy. Then they excused themselves and cautiously walked out to their squad car, hands ready on their sidearms, alert for any remaining 'like' hands.

    It happened to me and it could happen to you.

    • by geegel (1587009)

      Funny? Troll?

      Head explodes

    • Thanks for the story. Now I won't be able to sleep tonight.

      • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @02:28PM (#34391868) Journal

        Thanks for the story. Now I won't be able to sleep tonight.

        There, there, fellow victim, I have a method to help you with this problem. Lay on your bed, look at your hand, now back to me, now back at your hand, now back to me. Sadly, your hand cannot stop the 'Like This' button, but if you stopped using Facebook and switched to Diaspora, you could avoid the blue terror like me. Look down, back up, where are you? You’re on a cloud with only about five hundred other users. What’s in your hand, back at me. I have it, it’s your mouse connected to your computer where you just need to enter your password one final time to leave Facebook. Look again, the mouse is now diamonds. Anything is possible when you're not promoting Facebook. I’m on a butterfly.

    • This post is exactly why Slashdot needs to implement a Like button for comments.

    • by vux984 (928602)

      The police said I was powerless, I had given up my right when I had clicked through the Terms of Service to join Facebook.

      The like hands are chasing me too. But I have not joined facebook, and I have not clicked through their terms of service.

  • ABP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by scheveningen (305408) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @02:07PM (#34391490)

    And that is why we like Add Block Plus. Not only does it protect some of your privacy, it also speeds up your page loading.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by noidentity (188756)

      And that is why we like Add Block Plus. Not only does it protect some of your privacy, it also speeds up your page loading.

      Unfortunately it makes your CPU slower, because it has to translate all the blocked ADD instructions into a NEG SUB pair.

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @02:07PM (#34391496) Homepage
    Noscript, Taco with Abine, BetterPrivacy.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jo_ham (604554)

      Even easier, I just keep Facebook sandboxed in a totally separate browser that never visits any other website. This browser is also equipped with adblocking, script blocking and so on.

      They can't track you if you don't go anywhere. I also never click on links in facebook posts or on the facebook page - I copy and paste them into a text file and strip off any added facebook nonsense to get to the actual URL.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by BitZtream (692029)

        Except the article is about facebook tracking everyone on sites other than facebook, such as when you go to some stores website and they have a 'Like It' button for all their products ... facebook is tracking you and that you've viewed that item, regardless of wether you have a facebook account or not.

        But don't bother reading the article or even the summary or anything.

        • by jo_ham (604554)

          I have an adblocker that keeps that crap off the page in my primary browser - I don't see those facebook "like" boxes.

          Since the "clean" browser also has no idea about my facebook information, any tracking they are doing is totally unconnected to me.

      • by dreampod (1093343)

        That isn't going to help you. If you had read TFA you would know that this is about the Facebook Connect 'Like' buttons that have been showing up on many of the popular websites and how it tracks you behaviour even if you aren't signed up with Facebook. Essentially Facebook has become another cross-site marketing tracker which given their abysmal outlook on privacy shouldn't be a surprise but is still worth noting because of their prevalence.

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        +1. Best place to keep FB is on its own Web browser separated from everything else using SandboxIE or a VM. Then on the other Web browsers used for general browsing, have their cookies auto-blocked. If you want to "like" something on FB, cut and paste the link into the FB browser.

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      Just Ghostery gets rid of 390 trackers for me.

    • Use a junk browser only for facebook and restrict cookies. Clean cache cookies thouroughly and often.
  • Plugins (Score:5, Informative)

    by mr100percent (57156) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @02:08PM (#34391506) Homepage Journal

    This is why I use plugins like Defacer [babelstudios.se], which hides the iframes for Facebook and (coming soon) the other Share buttons.

  • How about writing a browser extention that, in the background, visits all known sites that have the 'like' button (intelligently upgraded? That way, they won't know which sites you visited legitimately, thus the data they collect on you is worthless?

  • every time you shower you're in danger of getting wet, and supporting socialist water works

    • every time you shower you're in danger of getting wet, and supporting socialist water works

      This is about getting splashed from outside of the shower.

  • The article spins a good yarn about how evil and underhanded the facebook button is, then puts a facebook like button right at the bottom.
  • Beacon (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Thelasko (1196535) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @02:14PM (#34391602) Journal
    The beacon is back, and better than ever.
  • I've been noticing this some weeks ago when, on cnn.com, a widget informed what my friends like.

    I basically developed the habit of logging out of FB every time, it's not that hard.

    As for the Adblock/Noscript solution, I refuse to use it. I wore the hat of a webmaster and I know how important advertising is.

    • You seem to be missing the fact that Facebook is using this to track me, someone who has never joined Facebook. This is the sort of thing that is the reason I have not joined Facebook.
      • by geegel (1587009)

        I honestly doubt that this is how it works. When I'm not logged in, that data does not appear. Also for the sake of clarity I must bring to light the fact that I have several FB accounts. This might screw their profiling (the profiles have wildly divergent interests and behaviors).

        Again, this is only my personal account, so take it with a grain of salt.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      As for the Adblock/Noscript solution, I refuse to use it. I wore the hat of a webmaster and I know how important advertising is.

      How important it is to sites that depend on polluting your mind, you mean.

      • by geegel (1587009)

        I'm not going to argue with you on this topic. It is a personal choice, which I made based on my personal experience. You are free to have your own opinion, just don't judge others who choose to think otherwise.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          You are free to have your own opinion, just don't judge others who choose to think otherwise.

          That is a load of dingo's kidneys. The brain is one big meat-based discrimination machine. It lets you make yes/no decisions in an analog world. You felt free to share your opinion, and have clearly already made your own related judgments, but you don't want to hear anyone else's. You do not have the right to not be offended.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      As for the Adblock/Noscript solution, I refuse to use it. I wore the hat of a webmaster and I know how important advertising is.

      Well, I wasn't going to click on the ads anyway, so I'm sure as hell not going to use my bandwidth to view them. Just because you signed a contract with someone who sells ads, doesn't mean you signed one with me -- I don't ow any advertiser my time, my eyeballs, or my bandwidth.

      If your site folds because I didn't allow ads, well, your site would have folded anyway, and someone els

      • by geegel (1587009)

        Ok, I'll bite. How do you know that you won't click the ads, if you don't even visualize them?

        As for the "owing" part, you have no argument from me, I only see it as a gesture of politeness

    • by Reziac (43301) *

      I don't use adblock because I use some basic settings (no flash, block unrequested popups, block images from certain servers) that filter the real crap well enough most of the time. But that's not the point:

      I don't mind well-targeted ads *that don't slow things down*, but we hardly ever see those anymore. I was astonished the other day when I was at some tech site and was served simple, fast-loading ads directly relevant to the site topic itself -- and I'm like, hey, get a load of these ads that I *don't* w

  • I put put 127.0.0.1 in my hosts file for facebook after my gf dumped me and I noticed almost every website calls the facebook like.ph url when you click on a link. Very annoying when trying to navigate with the back button

  • Not if you... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Posting=!Working (197779) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @02:20PM (#34391714)

    Add this to your Adblock Plus filter:

    ||facebook.*$domain=~facebook.com|~127.0.0.1

    What like button?
    You can still use facebook, but they're blocked from any page that isn't facebook.com.

    • Re:Not if you... (Score:5, Informative)

      by bassman998 (922503) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @03:21PM (#34392792)
      I use the following Adblock rules:

      ||fbcdn.com/*$domain=~facebook.com
      ||fbcdn.net/*$domain=~facebook.com
      ||facebook.com/*$domain=~facebook.com
      ||facebook.net/*$domain=~facebook.com

      I never see Facebook content on any site other than Facebook, and their social plugin can't track me.
  • Facebook is going to track your activity. If you post your personal photos and information on a social networking site, it will more than likely be used for reasons other than you intended. There, now let's all move on.
  • Roosendaal says that Facebook's tentacles

    Anyone else read that as Facebooks testicles.

  • hmmm (Score:2, Funny)

    by jarkus4 (1627895)
    First, we dont really know they make any use of this data. They have the possibility, but they dont have to use it (its quite likely they do, but thats a different matter) Second, to avoid sending this data they would have to either limit some functionality or go out of their way and create some special domains to avoid passing the cookies between the systems. And this would be for no gain for them whatsoever - "not stealing" personal information is never a news topic. Also the only people who actually can
  • I can guranantee with 100% certainty that the "like button" is NOT tracking me. As I have never clicked, nor SEEN the "like button".

    Seriously, I couldn't be safer from Facebook's privacy issues...don't even have an account.
  • by magsol (1406749) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @02:44PM (#34392144) Journal
    Why is there a "Share this on Facebook" button at the end of TFA?
  • I call them my four horsemen of the adpocalypse:

    Adblock Plus [mozilla.org]
    NoScript [mozilla.org]
    RequestPolicy [mozilla.org]
    RefControl [mozilla.org]

    Other than my Facebook-specific Firefox profile, it's as if Facebook doesn't exist.

  • That has been the subject of many blog posts and news items and it is why sites which care about your privacy do not use this button (they use "find us on facebook" buttons with simple HTML links instead of iframes hosted by facebook).
  • Since TFA was rather short on details, I get the impression that blocking/disabling third party cookies solves this, since the cookie is from facebook and I'm looking at $SITEXYZ.

  • by Wiarumas (919682) on Tuesday November 30, 2010 @03:14PM (#34392648)
    Facebook knows a lot about me: that I have no friends, no interests, and log in between the hours of 1 and 5AM from my mother's basement. I keep getting advertisements from Slashdot and World of Warcraft.

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