Private Oy: Facebook and the Super Snoopers (Part One)by John Carroll onNov 22, 2011 • 6:30 am 6 Comments
An online privacy trifecta from the hardworking staff at Sneak ADtack:
• USA Today report (with helpful graphic):
Facebook tracking is under scrutiny
In recent weeks, Facebook has been wrangling with the Federal Trade Commission over whether the social media website is violating users’ privacy by making public too much of their personal information.
Far more quietly, another debate is brewing over a different side of online privacy: what Facebook is learning about those who visit its website.
Facebook officials are now acknowledging that the social media giant has been able to create a running log of the web pages that each of its 800 million or so members has visited during the previous 90 days. Facebook also keeps close track of where millions more non-members of the social network go on the Web, after they visit a Facebook web page for any reason.
That’s two – two – two cookies in one site:
The company compiles tracking data in different ways for members who have signed in and are using their accounts, for members who are logged-off and for non-members. The tracking process begins when you initially visit a facebook.com page. If you choose to sign up for a new account, Facebook inserts two different types of tracking cookies in your browser, a “session cookie” and a “browser cookie.” If you choose not to become a member, and move on, you only get the browser cookie.
• The USA Today piece comes in the wake of last week’s Facebook rumpus with Salman Rushdie in which, according to the New York Times, Facebook “deactivated his account, demanded proof of identity and then turned him into Ahmed Rushdie, which is how he is identified on his passport.”
Rushdie promptly took to Twitter to plead his case.
“Where are you hiding, Mark?” he demanded of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, in one post. “Come out here and give me back my name!”
The Twitterverse took up his cause. Within two hours, Mr. Rushdie gleefully declared victory: “Facebook has buckled! I’m Salman Rushdie again. I feel SO much better. An identity crisis at my age is no fun.”
• Interestingly, the same day that piece ran in the Times, the Wall Street Journal published a roundtable discussion about online privacy, featuring:
Stewart Baker, a partner in Washington, D.C., at the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson. His book “Skating on Stilts” describes his battles with privacy advocates during his tenure at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Danah Boyd, a senior researcher atMicrosoft Corp., conducted one of the most comprehensive ethnographic studies of how teenagers shape—and are shaped by—their interactions with social networks.
Jeff Jarvis, an associate professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, whose recent book, “Public Parts,” argues that living in public opens up unprecedented personal and professional opportunities for collaboration.
Christopher Soghoian, a fellow at the Open Society Institute, created the first browser software—called TACO—that blocked online tracking.
Coming up next:
The nym wars.
And much more . . .
John Carroll, who also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town, is a media analyst and mass communication professor at Boston University.
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