The Facebook Beacon (and why it’s a bad idea)

Facebook have introduced a new data harvesting system to assist in targetting advertising to it’s users, using 3rd party websites to gather data on their behalf.

With the help of some clever javascript, and some co-operative 3rd party websites who have embedded this javascript into their pages, they can now update your facebook profile for you when you do things.  At the moment this is done with your consent – the little popup (if you spot it) gives you the option to deny – but you can’t completely block the facility from within your facebook privacy settings – you can block it on a site by site basis, but only after the fact -a site has to have already sent an update to your account before it appears in your privacy settings.

Scary stuff. How to stop this happening to you is after the “more” link…

However, fortunately, some people have figured out that all you FireFox users out there can block the beacon. Others who don’t want to do this – if you’re logged out of Facebook, I believe the javascript won’t work. So as long as you diligently click that “log out” link every time – you should be fine too.  Now we know why Facebook finally introduced the “keep me logged on” option a few weeks ago – it’s needed for this activity tracking feature.

According to the press release (linked below) there are 44 sites which might “ping”your activity to Facebook – however I’ve yet to locate a definitive list of the sites I should avoid – however some are listed at the end of that press release.

Other relevant links:

Facebook Has Become Evil

Project Beacon – Does Facebook know too much

Block Facebook Beacon

Facebook Beacon Press Release

Thanks to DoctorVee for finally giving me the incentive to write a post I should have found time to write a few days ago.

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