Ethan A. Huff
The social media empire Facebook has unveiled some new “features” on its platform in recent days that many allege are a total and compete privacy-breaching nightmare. But one hidden feature, discovered by Nik Cubrilovic, an Australian entrepreneur and writer, that few people are aware of is the fact that Facebook now monitors your online activity, even when you are not logged in to the service.
With each new change Facebook makes, users’ privacy becomes a little less … nonexistent, if you will. The most recent “News Feed” modifications, for example, display everything you say and do on the site to all of your “friends,” and even to the public. And now, even after logging out of Facebook, permanent “cookies” track all your movements on websites that contain Facebook buttons or widgets.
“Even if you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit,” Cubrilovic wrote on a recent blog posting. “The only solution is to delete every Facebook cookie in your browser, or to use a separate browser for Facebook interactions” (http://nikcub-static.appspot.com/lo…).
But how many Facebook users will actually know to do this? The site has never announced to its users that it is even tracking them in the first place, let alone given them any instructions on how to “opt-out” of this egregious invasion of privacy.
Facebook, of course, has become infamous for simply changing its site setup, including privacy settings, and leaving it up to users to figure out how to contain their breached information after the fact. It has switched from an “opt-in” approach, where users used to be given the option to “upgrade” to new features, to a much more complicated “opt-out” approach, where Facebook makes drastic changes and leaves it up to users to somehow figure out how to change things back to the way they were (if such an option is even still possible).
“While initially opt-in, the default then seems to be expose everything,” says David Vaile, executive director of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, concerning Facebook’s “breathtaking and audacious grab for whole life data.”
“Facebook, once again, are (sic) doing things that are beyond most users’ capacity to understand while reducing their privacy … the default setting for any site should be ‘reveal nothing about me unless I make a specific choice otherwise.’”
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