It’s no secret that Facebook collects lots of data about its users. However, here’s a less well-known fact: the site not only watches its active users but even those who don’t have an account.
First of all, it helps create efficient and personalized — or target — advertising. Tracking web activity allows Facebook to learn the user’s preferences and show them ads they will most likely be interested in.
Much more than we think — and even things we didn’t indicate. Your ad preferences, address, phone number, education, income, cost and area of your house — all these can be acquired through your and your friends’ Internet activity analysis. Moreover, deleting your account won’t help as your information will stay in the database almost forever.
A study published by the Belgian Commission for the Protection of Privacy showed that Facebook tracks sites visited even by those users who never created an account on the social network.
This is possible because of cookie files and social network plugins — for example, the “Like” button widget that’s built into most popular pages. However, researchers state that tracking can even occur without any interaction with Facebook services whatsoever.
If you’re a Facebook user, here’s a safety guide for you from data analysis specialist Vicky Boykis:
- Try not to post too much personal info.
- Don’t post photographs of your children, especially if they’re not old enough to give their consent.
- Log out of Facebook when you’re done using it, or use separate browsers for different activities.
- Use ad blockers.
- Don’t install Facebook Messenger on your phone. Use the mobile website instead.
These recommendations from Business Insider will be of use for all Internet users:
- On iPhone or iPad, select Settings > Confidentiality > Advertising, and enable the Limit Ad Tracking option.
- On Android devices, select Settings > Google > Ads Settings, and turn off Ads Personalization.
- In the Chrome browser (or any other — their settings are similar), open Settings > Show advanced settings > Privacy, and check the box that says Send a “Do Not Track” request with your browsing traffic.
There aren’t any laws making organizations abide by this prohibition, but Facebook and some other companies have signed an agreement that binds them to respect the unwillingness of users to be under surveillance.