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Facebook reveals how it tracks its users, does it to “improve security”

According to Facebook’s engineering director Arturo Bejar, Facebook uses tracking cookie technology to compile a log of web pages a user has visited for 90 days, all in an attempt to “improve security.”

Facebook officials are now admitting that the social network giant has been able to create a running log of the web pages that each of its 800 million members have visited during the previous 90 days. Facebook also keeps close track of where millions more non-members of the social network go on the Web, after they visit Facebook for any reason.

But they have a reason for it. Facebook apparently has been working hard to distinguish how the popular social network tracks data. Facebook uses the data only to “boost security” and improve how Like buttons and similar plugins perform. Facebook has “no plans to change how [they] use this data.” Facebook also “stands in stark contrast to the many ad networks and data brokers that deliberately and, in many cases, surreptitiously track people to create profiles of their behavior, sell that content to the highest bidder, or use that content to target ads.”

Here is what Facebook does to its users:

  • Facebook doesn’t track everybody the same way. It uses different methods for members who have signed in and are using their accounts, members who are logged-off and non-members.
  • The first time you arrive at any Facebook.com page, the company inserts cookies in your browser. If you sign up for an account, it inserts two types of cookies. If you don’t set up an account, it only inserts one of the two types.
  • These cookies record every time you visit another website that uses a Facebook Like button or other Facebook plugin – which work together with the cookies to note the time, date and website being visited. Unique characteristics that identify your computer are also recorded.
  • Facebook keeps logs that record your past 90 days of activity. It deletes entries older than 90 days.
  • If you are logged into a Facebook account, your name, email address, friends and all of the other data in your Facebook profile is also recorded.

Just recently, a new startup that emphasizes themselves as the anti-Facebook, Unthink.com, opened up the floodgates to its new social networking site. Launched to the first round of beta testers, Unthink hopes to establish a more open and more honest form of social networking and claim that Facebook is the opposite of such.

Even a poll was conducted and results show that 70% of Facebook users and 52% of Google users were mildly or seriously concerned about their online privacy, yet proponents of online tracking argue that online commerce would suffer.

Should online tracking stop and will it affect online commerce? Tell us how you feel about this in the comments below.

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