Facebook has been violating people’s rights to privacy time and again. So far, these breaches have been met with sheepish, insincere apologies, and a feeling that Facebook would do so again, and again, and again. (as long as they feel they can get away with it) However, this time, Facebook has really pushed the limits on invasion of privacy. A research paper written by Arnold Roosendaal of Tilburg University showed that Facebook tracks its members (and even some non-members) through the use of the ‘like’ widget.
The paper, entitled “Facebook tracks and traces everyone: Like this!”, showed just how Facebook was using the like button in order to track people’s activities on the internet. That seemingly innocent Thumbs Up symbol just might possibly be the biggest spy in the world. That traitorous little symbol has been gathering information on what sites we visit and how often we do so – regardless of whether we click that “innocuous” little button or not.
When a Facebook user visits any website containing the like button, Facebook will ascertain the user’s identity through the use of the cookies that it placed on the user’s computer. The cookies contain data on the person’s user IDs which are inevitably linked to the user’s actual name. So, yeah, this is the part where people who visit “questionable” sites can begin to squirm and perhaps even rage against Zuckerberg’s perverse disrespect for privacy.
Worse, even those who are not members of Facebook get tracked. Facebook identifies them through the use of Facebook Connect. This is a feature that allows people to sign in to a certain website by using their Facebook accounts. If the non-members have previously visited any site that uses Facebook Connect, then bam, Facebook has them.
A cookie is set each time you visit a site with the like button, so there’s virtually no escape. The problem is, the like button is now everywhere. Facebook has been so deeply integrated into the internet that avoiding these sites would be like walking through a field with landmines planted inches apart. However, to let Facebook get away with such a blatant invasion of user privacy would be tantamount to social suicide. As such, a lawsuit was filed against the social networking giant, holding it liable for its actions. According to the lawsuit, people ‘reasonably expect that their browsing history would remain anonymous’, violating people’s rights under the State of
Of course, Facebook claimed that it ‘anonymizes’ the information, but who would believe them? Facebook has played with people’s rights for far too long, unflinchingly blurring the lines between the legal and the illegal, bypassing even the most basic moral codes.