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Is Facebook Tracking Every Web Page That You Visit . . . Even After You Log Out of Facebook?

Facebook cookies

9/28/2011 UPDATE: Facebook has responded to the complaints . . . sort of. For an in depth explanation of Facebook’s response, check out Nik Cubrilovic’s blog post.

Facebook has some explaining to do, if the findings of one blogger are true. Nik Cubrilovic, an entrepreneur and developer, recently analyzed Facebook’s tracking cookies, and found some surprising behavior. Specifically, even if you log out of your Facebook account, “Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit.” Before you get too upset, though, read on.

Cubrilovic dug into Facebook’s cookies, in a manner that is too technical for many of us (including me) to follow. He found that, even when logged out, Facebook was still setting cookies with his account identifier. He indicated that “whenever I visit any page with a Facebook like button, or share button, or any other widget, the information, including my account ID, is still being sent to Facebook.” He came to the conclusion that the only way NOT to share information with Facebook was to not only log out of your account, but also to delete all Facebook cookies.

A Facebook developer did respond, directly in the comments section of Cubrilovic’s blog. He claimed, among other things, that the cookies werent’ being used used to track individuals. He indicated that the cookies were used for fighting spammers, helping people recover hacked accounts, for additional security, and more. Many skeptical (to put it nicely) comments followed, calling into question the developer’s claims. Some argued that even if Facebook wasn’t using these cookies to track people, it could use these cookies to track people, and that was the problem.

At the end of the day, I’m no closer to knowing whether Facebook is tracking every page that we visit, or, even if it isn’t tracking us, whether it has the ability to do so. And there rests part of the problem- Facebook has been so cavalier about our privacy over the years, is anyone going to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt here?

Logging out of Facebook is not enough [Nik Cubrilovic]

 

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About Evan Kline

Evan started 40Tech to write about tech from his perspective – that of the average 40-something tech geek. When not writing about tech, you might find him with his beautiful wife and baby girl, out on the ski slopes, at his real-life job as a lawyer, over on Google+, or scrounging for followers on his personal Twitter account after years of focusing on the 40Tech account.

15 Responses to Is Facebook Tracking Every Web Page That You Visit . . . Even After You Log Out of Facebook?

  1. It’s an interesting story and a worrying trend. I’m an avid FB’er with my friends and family but I’m not keen on how much information they want to gather on me.

    The alleged FB engineers was quoted as saying “Generally, unlike other major internet companies, we have no interest in tracking people”.

    Not sure I agree with that — they track a lot of what you do already!

    Just as an example, one of my friends had a new bathroom fitted the other day and she posted pics on her FB. Since looking at the pics I keep being shown adverts within facebook about bathrooms — clever stuff!

    • I’d see that as being a bit different, since that’s simply utilizing your Facebook history, rather than your web browsing history outside of Facebook.

    • I guess it’s not exactly the same, but I think them saying they don’t track people is a bit of an overstatement, at the very least. Clearly they’re tracking what users do on their own site, if not elsewhere. I guess it comes down to whether that would be considered tracking or not, even if it isn’t the type of tracking mentioned in Cubrilovic’s article.

      • Without trying to sound too much like Bill Clinton, it might be a question of what “track” means.

        I expect a company to know what I have done on its site, and don’t really considering it to be tracking.

        I agree that many people may consider this to be tracking, though.

  2. I experienced visiting another site with Facebook like button and my account was logged in even if I close the window after browsing it (without logging out). It is a little frustrating because you might end up accidentally liking a post and it will automatically appear on your feeds. I do hope that won’t happen when you log out.

  3. I see FB have now fixed the rouge cookies and are rolling this out in the next 24 hours. They say they will now destroy the cookies on logout (especially the a_user one)

  4. Facebook has always been doing shady things, they probably learned it from Google.
    The cookie in question is problematic, since even though they claim they’re not tracking individuals, how can you know they won’t do it if they consider it necessary? and who can say they’re not storing these informations for future use?

  5. This is nothing new. Other sites have been doing this for years under the radar, and there are plenty of ways to circumvent it.

  6. Google is also tracking our online activity, at least when we are log in with our google account. This is a known fact, companies and governments had tracked our online activity for years now and I’m not a conspiracy nut.

  7. 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.

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