Privacy an illusion as Facebook spreads your details online

You will need to remember to logout of Facebook if you want to maintain your privacy online, as Facebook expands its presence and gives away your personal details.

Facebook PrivacyFacebook users are being reminded to actively log out of Facebook in order to maintain their privacy by AVG Technologies’ Chief Research Officer, Roger Thompson. Mr Thompson found Facebook’s overly promiscuous use of what some users believed was private data to be a serious concern.

Mr Thompson found that when he surfed to CNN.com to check out the news he found that CNN knew who his friends were on Facebook, offering streams of information on the side of the page. CNN.com had brought in all of his friends ‘activity’ on Facebook and knew what they were up to. This was a concern to Mr Thompson as he wondered how CNN.com knew who his Facebook friends were, having not logged into the site explicitly.

Given that Facebook has over 400 million users, Mr Thompson considered it unlikely that CNN.com just ‘happened’ to grab one of my friends.

I thought to myself, “They knew who I am! Dang! I wonder how many other web sites know that?”

AVG’s Jas Dhaliwal, explained the unusual behavior.

“CNN and over 100,000 other web sites are using Facebook’s new social plugins that were announced at their F8 Developers conference a few weeks ago.

“The ‘social plugins’ are designed to show which of your friends are voting ‘“like’ on a site’s specific news stories. If none of your Facebook friends are clicking the ‘Like’ button, then Facebook aggregates the popular stories that are ‘liked’ on the site as a whole.

“The social plugins take the step of Facebook Connect, one step further. Connect was designed to be a ‘Single Sign-On’ for the web. In other words, you log into Facebook once, and when you visit other sites around the web, it would log you on to their site, using the Facebook credentials already provided.

“At the recent F8 conference, Facebook announced that they were going to remove the Connect button. So, if you’ve logged in once, it will remember your login. The social plugin caches that login data and uses a custom API to show which of your friends (i.e. your social graph) are visiting the same site.

“Why? Because, I’m likely to stay longer at a site, if I know my friends have been there… so says the psychological theory. Facebook have done a very, very bad job at explaining this. For most people, when they see CNN’s Facebook plugin they are surprised, because as a user, you haven’t given CNN or Facebook explicit permission to connect to your social graph/friends list.”

Jas Dhaliwal concludes, “If you want to stop this type of behaviour, and thus do not want to see the stories that your friends are interested in as they visit the web, simply click “Log Out” of Facebook. This is something nearly no one does. Simply, closing a Facebook tab or window DOES NOT log you out of Facebook. I think the user community needs to be educated specifically on this.”

So if you don’t want this sort of information being shared, you need to LOG OUT of Facebook, not just close the window once you finish reading posts.

Facebook Privacy CNN

CNN uses your Facebook data (circled in red)

  • It all seems to come from http://www.facebook.com/plugins – not sure if blocking that URL will do anything to prevent them from seeing who you are?

    • John Smith

      No , it won`t. It`s very sad what is happening since February 2004..

  • What is actually happening is the developer has embedded a little JS file which brings in the FB data. The developer is probably using Google Analytics too.

    So Google and FaceBook know a lot about what you are doing online. At the same time they do not look at you as an individual.

    The main thing to consider is, does it really matter? FB is not publishing that you are currently looking at the site till you hit the “Like” button.

    As a final point http://getclicky.com goes even further and actually shows you in real-time what individuals are doing on your site. This is real evasion of privacy compared to FB and Google.

    D