Why I don’t visit Facebook pages

Story was on the financial news. There it was stated that you did not need to have a “facebook account” to get cookied; just visit Facebook. That is more in line with my understanding (but I’ve not gone into it in depth, just enough to know I didn’t want to visit the Facebook site). So when the article quotes Facebook saying “our users” realize that can mean someone who just clicks on a link there.


My bold.

BRUSSELS — Facebook Inc. said Monday it would appeal a privacy decision by a Brussels court to stop tracking its users in Belgium without their consent.

Local media reported Monday evening that a Brussels commercial court had ruled that Facebook /quotes/zigman/9962609/composite FB +0.59% must stop within 48 hours the collection of data on users’ Internet browsing when they are not logged in. If they didn’t stop, then Facebook would face a daily fine of EUR250,000 ($269,000), the reports said.

“We’ve used the data cookie for more than five years to keep Facebook secure for 1.5 billion people around the world. We will appeal this decision and are working to minimize any disruption to people’s access to Facebook in Belgium,” a Facebook spokeswoman said. Facebook didn’t give further details of the verdict.

Facebook has acknowledged that it collects data on users’ Internet browsing even when they aren’t logged in, through a snippet of computer code called a cookie
that it places within an individual’s Web browser if they have visited the Facebook.com website. That cookie reports back to Facebook whenever that browser accesses a Web page with an active social plug-in, such as a “like” button.

Facebook says the process is necessary for security purposes to protect people from spam, malware and other attacks. The firm says it uses the information from that cookie only to weed out browsers being piloted by a machine rather than a human, and discards the browsing data after 10 days. Machine-driven browsers are often used to hack into users’ Facebook pages, the company says.

An extended version of this report appears at WSJ.com.

The WSJ link requires you to log in or subscribe to read it, so don’t bother.

Now if you think they are ONLY tracking every place you EVER visit to check out the “active social plug-in” and never ever use it to generate statistics about traffic and usage patterns, well, have I got a bridge for you!…

And if you are comfortable they they are only tagging and tracking “every click you take, every link you make” when they’ll be watching you… well, we can make that bridge a BOGO for Today Only!!

(For those who might not be ‘up’ on American slang, BOGO stands for Buy One / Get One (free) – i.e. a 2 for the price of 1 sale. Stupid, but it has entered the language of marketing hustles… along with the “one day only” price that is repeated at every sale, that seems to be every other day…)

As I’m not fond of spending my days doing “cookie management”, I find it much easier to just not ever go to Facebook.

This is also part of why I use so many different browsers and “rotate my machines regularly”. Constantly on the move, leaving a trail of stale cookies behind me, means that their information about me is corrupted and skewed at best. (Whoever ‘they’ are at any one time).

Unfortunately, some sites that I do want to use, require cookies to be active in order to work correctly (like Bigcharts that uses them to keep my preferences set for ‘kind of chart’ and comparison tickers). My “ultimate solution” for this is in the works. That is to get a few 4 or 8 GB mini-SD cards and make a few custom copies of the “almost a Ratails” Pi system. One for trading ONLY. One for blog management ONLY. One for general browsing around and news R&D and reset after every use. Maybe one or two others for things like online banking and / or actually looking at a Facebook link someday (nuke / reset after each use).

As the R.PiM2 boots up in about the time it takes to have a long swallow of coffee, it isn’t like a chip swap and boot is taking enough time to matter.

FWIW, this is also why I generally avoid ALL the “social media” sites. They make money off of selling your information. I’m not interested in making that “trade” of “waste my time and get my info for your profit”. I don’t need to be that “social”…

So you won’t find me on Linked-in or Twitter or any of the rest of them either. (IFF I ever do get an account on any of them, it will be from a ‘dedicated device’ only; and turned off when not in active use.)

With that, a hearty Best Of Luck to scrappy little Belgium. May they set a privacy precedent reflected around the world.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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5 Responses to Why I don’t visit Facebook pages

  1. philjourdan says:

    Helpful HInt – Copy the headline and paste it into google. Then click on the google link. It will let you read the entire article.

    And thanks for the links and story. I am going to purge my cookies and not go to facebook, even with a link, again (I have no account there).

  2. Larry Ledwick says:

    I have my browser set to dump all cookies on closing. I will open a session click a couple links then close the browser window if I am going to some url I don’t want to leave long term tracks on. All cookies wiped out. Then just open a new browser window.

    If you watch your cookies, (clear all cookies then go to one site and then view your cookies again)

    You will see that some sites set 30-50 cookies just to visit one page. The one add-on I would love to see in browsers is the ability to set the ability to set a check box to protect a specific cookie that allows you specific function on a web site (ie your log in) you visit all the time, but have a little daemon that would purge all other cookies every couple minutes.

    While I was typing this comment I went to the privacy settings and cleared cookies then refreshed this page. I instantly had 22 cookies, only one of which is from wordpress. I currently only have 2 other tabs open. I just logged back into the two other tabs (twitter and face book) and now have 28 cookies.

    The problem is, cookies are so pervasive that I am not sure even your level of effort really buys you much benefit.

    The digital advertising community is doing more and more work with cookies and harvesting user behavior through cookies web page behavior tracking with advanced features in some web pages just hovering your cursor over an image will start things, you no longer even need to click on things for some of your behavior to be tracked.
    Using these methods they can aggregate behavior information and build a profile of your interests. This leads to targeted advertising and similar behavior driven activity, where they try to feed you things you are highly likely to respond to and not feed you things you have no interest in.

    Your most unique ID information is your email address, any time you leave your email address on a web site, you have essentially left a unique tracking reference which can be traded and correlated with other sites to aggregate your behavior information on other sites which also have your email.

    Many places say something like “we will never share your email with another company”. They don’t have to, all they need to do is share the hash value of your email address and the behavior information they harvested from your interaction with their web site. Then in an anonymous form they can compare your behavior with any other web site who also has your email. The other web site, runs hashes on all the emails that they have in their data base and if one of their hashes matches, the other web sites hash, they know it is the same user with 99.999999% probability (ie it is almost impossible for two different strings to hash to the same value), especially if you limit the original strings to valid email addresses.

    Thus they never actually “share” the email, but they basically say, I have this email in our system (presents hash value) the other site says yes I have the same hash in my email records, please send me your harvested info and I will send you my harvested info. Now they both have the harvested info from two totally separate on line interactions, and they did it without actually sharing the literal email but have effectively side stepped that issue by comparing notes in a encrypted anonymous form so that only if the other company already has a business relationship with you (ie your email address) do they share your behavior information.

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    I have done “cookie management” in Seamonky AKA IceApe and it has the nice feature that when you delete the cookies of a site, you can leave a flag behind saying “Do not accept future cookies from this site”. I hope that carries forward into IceWeasel on the newer Raspbian release and / or is also in the base FireFox browser. So a few hundred sites later, I have all of 4 places where I’ve left them able to set cookies (2 of them only ‘session cookies).

    I’m presently test driving it to see what impact that has on usability…

    I also have a ‘disposible email’ address that I use for anything public (and frankly never sign up for much of anything so even it isn’t ‘out there’ much). and two completely different email addresses for private things (one out of the USA and with good encryption- an article after I’m comfortable that it’s a reasonable solution…). So I’m at least “3 people” in terms of tracking.

    Then you get to add in the (roughly) 2 to 4 browsers I use on each platform and the (roughly) half dozen platforms I use at any one time and the number of “me”s in the space explodes.

    Now stir with regular “moving on” behaviour and season with sporadic “boot up the box I haven’t used for 2 years” and they get very confounded data flow… Oh, and I have a couple of login identities on some of the boxes…

    All part of why I’m moving to “one chip one purpose” system identities. That way I don’t have to worry about quite so much cross contamination. The “Use WordPress” chip will only ever get the WordPress set, and they will be ‘ad pruned’ in preferences fairly directly. Then just ‘clone’ the image and after each session ‘reset’ to the base and it ought to pretty much nuke any newcommers without pain or much time lost. ( I really like the BerryBoot clone / reset feature set, so I can cusomize the whole thing, then clone it, and never have to do the customize again, just reset to that base as needed / desired).

    I’m also playing with some ‘allow session cookies’ settings, but would rather not even have them. We’ll see how cranky things get with cookes slammed shut for most sites.

  4. The bewildering array of social media tools may work for my kids but I am too old a dog to learn new tricks.

    You can send me a “Voicemail” but allow for the fact that I check them once or twice per year. I delete all Twitter and Facebook messages.

    If you want to get my attention simply phone, Skype, email or text me.

  5. I always tell people that if you are on a website and you are not buying anything and you can’t find the product, YOU ARE THE PRODUCT.

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