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September 27, 2011

Facebook Tracking Cookies Working Even When We're Logged Out?

By Oliver VanDervoort, Contributing Writer

While Facebook (News - Alert) has made quite a few leaps and bounds in its latest revamping, one feature it is not telling anyone about has some a little uneasy. Privacy has always been a big issue with Facebook and its users. Since the site first went live there were some who believed the site overstepped its bounds when it came to knowing what people were doing on its site and with whom. 

That is one of the reasons a recent glitch that made your un-friending of certain people a little too public had users a bit on edge. There are others who feel that the subscribe feature as well as the newsfeed on users pages go a little too far in providing info on what you and your friends are doing to the world.

Of course, making the un-friending of someone viewable to them was something that was merely a byproduct of a new feature and was quickly fixed. The newsfeeds and subscribe functions are both things that are mostly controlled by the users. A discovery by blogger DaveMiner casts Facebook in a positively Orwellian light. Miner says that he happened to notice that Facebook has started to broadcast actions that you take on the web even when you don’t hit the”like” button on certain web page.

Of course, most industry analysts have been saying for quite a while now that the cookies that Facebook attaches to your browser are doing more than allowing you to play all those wonderful games, or track you only when you want them to. The real problem here is that most people think the simple solution to stopping Facebook from snooping on you is to log out of the site. Now, other tech savvy individuals have found that these Facebook cookies may be active and tracking you even when you are logged out. 

Apparently this is part of Facebook’s API and it is built innocently enough as part of its frictionless sharing protocol. The problem is that logging out of the social networking site only de-authorizes the site, but information is still being sent back to Facebook using the cookies.

It now appears that the only way people can have real privacy when it comes to Facebook is to either completely delete every Facebook cookie on your browser after each visit, or use an entirely different browser than you normally do when Facebooking. Both of those options count as a real pain and because the average user is unaware of what cookies do, let alone that they are out there monitoring, this is something Facebook needs to address.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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