Social networking has always been prone to privacy issues. The biggest social network of them all, Facebook, has to deal with various privacy troubles regularly. Despite making numerous changes people are still worried whether their online actions are being monitored, or whether it is safe to share information on the web. Facebook recently released a lot of information regarding how it stores the data of users online and offline behavior. All the information was compiled by USA Today and various Facebook executives were used as the sources, including the engineering director and the corporate spokesman for Facebook.
How does the tracking work?
Facebook starts the tracking when someone visits their site for the first time. After visiting the site, there are two options available, you either register with the site or you go to some other site. In case you decide to go for the first option, you will get two cookies one is called the browser cookie and other is called the session cookie. If you go for the latter option you will get only the browser cookie. Now, browser cookie is given so that the next time you show up on the site it can give you an alternative message, whereas the session cookie is there to determine the account that is being used.
All this is pretty elementary and nothing to worry about as a lot of sites use normal session cookies. However, web pages that have Facebook plugins, including the Like button, are able to manipulate your cookies. Every single page that you visit and that has a Facebook plugin will be able to store information.
What information is stored?
As a lot of pages today have Facebook plugins it is very easy for Facebook to keep track of the sites that you visit. What is even more disturbing is the fact that they can keep this information stored for 90 days. So let us assume that you visit a site with such a plugin, while you are not logged in to Facebook, then information regarding the operating system, IP address and screen resolution is stored. However, if you are logged in to your account then your personal information like name, email address, information about friends is also stored.
How does Facebook use the information?
As far as the use of this data goes, there is nothing that indicates breach of privacy. As per Facebook, they only use it so that they can gauge the performance of their plugins and understand which browsers are popular. This helps them in providing a better service to their customers and those who are involved in PPC training. However, the problem lies in the fact that there is a lot of risk involved in storing such data. By knowing the sites a user visits, Facebook can get insight into various things such as, sexual preferences, medical conditions and political viewpoint. This is a lot of valuable information and most of the advertisers would give a lot of money to gain it. If this happens then it could be a serious breach of privacy.