Can Facebook track you even when logged out?

Nathan Pensky · September 26, 2011 · Short URL:

One software developer claims Facebook can track users' web activity, even when logged out.

As the world prepares for the impending rollout of Facebook's new updates, including the re-design of home profiles called "Timeline," one technologist, software developer, and Omnidrive founder Nik Cubrilovic has made some serious claims concerning Facebook's ability to track users' online activity.

According to Cubrilovic, Facebook can track the web activity of users on sites integrative with its software (in other words, site with a Facebook "like" or "update" option), even when users are logged out of Facebook itself.

Cubrilovic posted a blog today detailing said allegations, as well as the HTML code analysis to back up the claims. The post has been making serious waves. In this blog, Cubrilovic claims that when Facebook users log-out, rather than deleting cookies tracking user activity on integrative sites, it "alter[s]the state" of them, making them still readily accessible.

In this same blog post, Cubrilovic also recounted an unsettling experiment he conducted a year ago, when he created several fake Facebook sites "as part of some development work." He found that Facebook suggested to the different fake accounts that he "friend" his real account, concluding that the site was tracking all his account activity, both real and fake, to his IP address.

Other have already voiced their skepticism about Facebook's seeming unconcern with the stowing of users' web activity.

ReadWriteWeb noted that the fully integrated social media app offered on Facebook does not require that users push a "like" button for the articles they read to show up on their Facebook page.

BoingBoing editor and writer Cory Doctorow has drawn more conclusive lessons from Facebook's new policies, stating at last week's O'Reilly Strata Summit that "Facebook is teaching us to undervalue our privacy."

Software developer Dave Winer has also posted a widely circulated post on this same issue.

Facebook engineer Arturo Bejar has responded to the controversy in the comment thread to a VentureBeat article linking to Cubrilovic's original post. Bejar claims that Facebook uses such data to prevent security risks. Said Bejar, "[W]hen you’re logged in (or out) we don’t use our cookies to track you on social plugins to target ads or sell your information to third parties."

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