Have you been wondering if Facebook is stalking you? Here’s your answer: yes. Facebook follows you around the internet.
How else would Facebook know to serve that panda video straight into your news feed, and leave your college friend’s ill-informed rant about Pacific trade deals in the dark bowels of its servers? How else would it know to serve you with 7,000 ads for wedding dress vendors the very day you announce your engagement?
This bothers many people, especially since Facebook keeps expanding the list of things it knows about you, and the ways it is willing to use that data to make money.
The recent announcement that Facebook would soon target ads using your “likes” and “shares” has triggered some Olympic-level teeth- gnashing from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, because Facebook will get information from you not just when you actually like, “like” something, but when you load a page that has a “like” button on it.
The EFF wants Facebook to agree to use a “Do Not Track” standard that will keep all that potentially profitable data from the greedy eyes of advertisers.
Of course people should be able to hide data about what sites they use. But there’s a perfectly good way to do this: Stay signed out of Facebook and tell your browser not to accept cookies or otherwise let advertisers follow you around.
The problem is, this level of security is incredibly inconvenient, because you have to spend a lot of time painfully re-entering data. The other problem is that naive users, who probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about privacy, won’t bother.
The interwebs are full of splendid things that social-media companies could do to make life easier for various people, and perhaps better for society, if only those social-media companies didn’t have to make money. The problem is, if the social-media companies implemented them all, they would probably go out of business.
That would, of course, take care of problems like Twitter harassment and Facebook’s stalker-like record of your Internet activity, but most people do seem to like having those social-media platforms, even at the expense of some exposure to these risks.