Facebook Tracks and Traces Everyone: Like This! by Arnold Roosendaal :: SSRN

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, K30

working 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

Sweep the Sleaze | Information Architects

The user doesn’t come out of nowhere. We don’t land on your page and then head happily to those social networks to promote you, just because you have a button on your site. We find content through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest etc., not the other way around.

  • Whoever uses social networks to find content, usually begins the web journey there and goes back naturally. We don’t need to be reminded of what network we use on the way. We know. We came from there.
  • For those who don’t use social networks the social media buttons are completely useless.
  • If readers are too lazy to copy and paste the URL, and write a few words about your content, then it is not because you lack these magical buttons.

Some people probably do use those buttons. Maybe even a lot of people. And maybe you do and think I’m dead wrong about this. Maybe I am. And maybe someone needs to do some serious research to know for sure. I won’t deny all that. What I know for sure is that most people who know how to use social media also know how to share URLs:

“We removed FB buttons and traffic from Facebook increased. Reason: instead of ‘liking’ articles, readers share it on their timeline.” —@smashingmag

If you provide excellent content, social media users will take the time to read and talk about it in their networks. That’s what you really want. You don’t want a cheap thumbs up, you want your readers to talk about your content with their own voice.

This is too true!

In fact, although I have a Pinterest account, I do NOT use 'pin it' buttons. Ever. For some reason I am convinced that using the bookmarklet app gives me more control of exactly what goes on my Pinterest.

...now I'm wondering how that applies to other social networks, and other people.

Article also includes some disturbing info on what Those Cursed Bahtuns may be doing to your site.

More thoughts after discussion with a colleague:
Even if incoming traffic rises when buttons are removed... how do we (as webfolk) track and attribute the traffic sources?

Sure, if you've plonked banners all over the place, you recognise where *that* traffic was from. But stuff that people are sharing all by themselves over their own social networks?

When a user pokes a button on your site, you know about it.

When a user does what I've done here, which is to quote and provide a link back to the shinies... you, as site owner who wants to know, you have no clue what I've done.

And short of going through EVERY unfamiliar referring link to see where it came from... you'll never get those numbers. You'll never be able to track what people are doing / have done with your content.

The buttons are there because without things to count, beansuits get twitchy.

Well now, that's depressing. XD

All the above being said, this is incredibly funny (don't click if you have epilepsy, and yes I'm serious).

Another interesting take on it. Text and safe for epileptics.

A Simulacrum for Action | ideasonideas

Pretending to Engage

We speak of social networks, but this term has become misleading as, in practice, we really only mean Facebook and Twitter. This is an incidental note, but one I feel we should start to consider more carefully. We don’t use many social networks, but we are on Facebook, and this has changed a great deal about how we act. Or, perhaps it hasn’t.

I loathe team sports. While I’m quite keen on going for a bike ride or perhaps a hike in the woods, I find the notion of sitting on the couch, while rooting for “my” team, rather ghastly. While I can appreciate the desire to actually partake in some sport, this hysterical behavior from the sidelines seems pointless and masturbatory. While it may make you feel good, it accomplishes very little else.

In spite of criticizing this dialogue, I don’t mean to silence anyone. Instead, I ask when we take the next step. Posting a status update regarding one’s fears for their nation is a start. Putting down the mouse and actively joining a party that more accurately reflects one’s beliefs is so much more. For all those folks who posted their gripes online, I’ll bet less than 1 in 10 watched the debates. I’ll bet that less than 1 in 100 knocked on doors, campaigning for their party of choice. I’ll go one step further and bet that less than 1 in 1,000 considered exercising their democratic rights, and running for a seat.

This, then, becomes the tragic irony of the social network. We “like” pages in order to not offend our friends, “share” mundane nonsense and self-promotion, and “engage” with well-intentioned causes, so long as none of it avoids us doing anything more than contributing a click. We’re all “concerned” about the environment, but few of us sell our cars. We “boycott” oil companies for a day, only to fill our tanks the next. We think we’re “engaging” with our friends, but when we see many of them in public, we hardly know how to behave.

Most notably, we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re doing something constructive, when we’re mostly just adding to the chorus of meaningless banter that has become a global affliction. Want to connect with a friend? Invite them over for dinner. Want to share something? Give them something you’d actually miss. And for heaven’s sake, if you want to affect change in your community (or nation), turn off your computer, get off your ass, and actually do something.

I will say, though, that Facebook and Twitter do have the ability to give clients that nice veneer of 'measurability'.

We got 10k likes! Woot! KPI met!

But what did it actually accomplish?


Well... it got us likes...

That means something, right?

(It's not that I dislike all social media on principle, it's just that it's often used wrongly. If it's REALLY a channel for constructive customer feedback, or helps customers to solve problems / help each other solve problems, then it's great.)

Social media wankery at its finest (or maybe I just don't get social media)

Though cute in concept and execution, I can't help but wonder what the point of this site is.

Just to get FB posts/likes and Tweets? How does that help anyone?

Mebbe I just don't grok social media at all, because it all seems awfully pointless to me.

Don't get me wrong - if my KPI is to get more social shit like Tweets and FB posts/likes, I will quite happily orchestrate it (or attempt to) by gaming the system - as gamers love to do. But at the end of the day, I don't see the point (well KPIs aside).

These 'give a shits' aren't even bound to any charities or donations that I can tell. It's not as if you have to donate at least 10 cents before you can be said to give a shit about something.

It just looks like yet another social media wankfest.

I mean, if they at least bound it to donations of time (volunteerism) or easier (money), however small... then sure, there's a point.

But right now, this site exemplarises the 'Yay! Click this and feel like you did something when you did nothing' mentality.

For my daily fix of that, I'd rather play a rat pellet MMO, thanks.

Online Personas - An Installation by Aaron Zinman

In the wake of the whole Blizzard-Activision RealID debacle comes this shiny, scary, fun toy! This toy was not inspired by the whole RealID thing that I know of, but it's still oddly relevant!

Online Personas - An Installation by Aaron Zinman

You puts in your namez. It searches (some parts) of the Intarwebz. It makes a pretteh graphic. It shows you how the Intarwebz sees you! Be aware though, if you share the same name with many other non-snowflakes, it will show an aggregate you!

Go forth my minions, play wif it!

(Also, apparently one of my closest friends was born in 1834, got married in 1814, and has 5 children. I think there's something she isn't telling me...)

Paying for Those Games – Facebook Credits « The Ancient Gaming Noob

From the article:
"You can buy 56 Facebook Credits for $9.99. Why that ratio? I have no idea. But ten bucks gets you 56.

You can take those credits to FarmVille and spend 50 of them on 25 units of Farm Cash or 7,500 Farm Coins.

Or, to put it another way, you can take approximately $9.00 worth of Facebook credits and buy $5.00 worth of FarmVille currency."