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Freaky Friday – Facebook gets creepier with new Open Graph apps

If your zeal to overshare hasn’t been fully satisfied by Facebook’s various features and apps yet, get ready to embrace its new Open Graph applications.

These are applications made by third party developers — think Path, RunKeeper, Hulu — that will let your actions on their sites or networks seep into your Facebook TImeline in the form of “Open Graph actions” like “eat”, “run”, “watch” so that your friends can also eat, run, or watch with you if they so desire.

Ideally for you, as a Facebook user, these new actions from their 60 partners so far are meant to enhance your Timeline content with things that you do even while you’re not on Facebook. Ideally for Facebook, they can now track your actions even better when you’re not on Facebook, and in the process get more information about your online and offline life that makes you a more valuable commodity for the people and the companies who provided them with most of their $4 billion revenue last year: the advertisers.

The idea of your chosen site or service sending information about your activities on that site or service to Facebook after that site or service has your explicit permission to do so wouldn’t have been so bad if Facebook hadn’t been called out by the US Federal Trade Commission last year for being too aggressive in tracking their users’ web activities.

As reported by ABC news, Facebook tracks both users and non-users for a looooong time after they’ve visited Facebook, either through a session or a browser cookie that it installs in your computer. More specifically, the report states that:

  • 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.

  • Each time you visit a third-party webpage that has a Facebook Like button, or other Facebook plug-in, the plug-in works in conjunction with the cookie to alert Facebook of the date, time and web address of the webpage you’ve clicked to. The unique characteristics of your PC and browser, such as your IP address, screen resolution, operating system and browser version, are also recorded.

  • Facebook thus compiles a running log of all your webpage visits for 90 days, continually deleting entries for the oldest day and adding the newest to this log.

Realizing that Facebook tracks practically all my browsing activities (rare is the web site that doesn’t have a Facebook plug-in) after I have left Facebook and logged off was a real WTF moment.

I understand that there are privacy tradeoffs to my decision to voluntary join a free web service, but I don’t have to like it. The problem is that it’s probably just going to get worse when Facebook holds its expected IPO and comes under even greater pressure from its shareholders to grow its bottom line, i.e., sell more advertising.

Jason

Jason

Jason de Villa is teacher by day and a geek at all other times of the day. When he’s not teaching, he’s reading and writing about technology, looking for ways technology can help in education. His favorite noodles: Pancit Malabon Express.

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    • Facebook is going crazy! Srsly. I think this is too much. They just release the new Timeline and now this? Give us time to adapt naman! I feel so slow tuloy haha


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