Numerous websites have implemented the Facebook Like button to let Facebook members share their interests, therewith promoting websites or news items. It is, thus, an important business tool for content providers. However, this article shows that the tool is also used to place cookies on the user’s computer, regardless whether a user actually uses the button when visiting a website. As an alternative business model this allows Facebook to track and trace users and to process their data. It appears that non-Facebook members can also be traced via the Like button. This means that Facebook’s tentacles reach far beyond their own platform and members. Due to the extensive web coverage with Like buttons, Facebook has a potential connection with all web users. Web activity can be linked to individual accounts or a separate data set can be created for individuals who are not (yet) a Facebook member. The hidden collection of data on browsing behavior and the creation of individual data sets has implications for the privacy of individuals. This article discusses privacy issues arising from third party cookie use and connectivity of web activity and devices, using the technical process behind the Facebook Like button as an example.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 10
Keywords: Facebook, Like button, Cookies, Profiling, privacy, Data protection
JEL Classification: K00, K10, K30working papers series
From the PDF...
"A (small but important) difference with the Like button is that there can at least be supposed to be some link to Twitter, because the web user has visited this web site. For Facebook, this is not necessary at all. This implies that individuals who consciously choose not to participate in Facebook are still tracked and traced by Facebook. When someone does not connect to Facebook himself, Facebook makes the connection."
"Another important difference is that Facebook can connect the browsing behaviour to member accounts. These accounts are, usually, quite rich concerning disclosed information, but the Like button as exploited by Facebook makes that far more information is collected about individual members then the information disclosed on the personal profile page. Thus, people who have an account, but do not want to disclose that much information are still profiled more extensively. Their browsing behavior discloses much information concerning personal interests, and this information can also be collected by Facebook and connected to the individual account. In the end, consciousness in disclosing information, either by not participating on Facebook or by very limited disclosure of personal information, is not sufficient to escape Facebook’s tentacles."
"That data are transferred even when the button is not clicked upon is difficult to imagine for the ordinary web user. In addition, web users who have no connection with Facebook at all do certainly not expect to have their data transferred to this social network site. As a result, individuals who consciously choose not to participate in the social network site are still connected to this web site."
Oh, and by the way, clearing your cookies doesn't work. Just go read it. XD