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Facebook Breaks Its Own Promise In New Move to Track Its Users’ Internet Histories

Facebook is breaking a promise that it made three years ago in regards to “spying” on its users’ web browsing.


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A view of Facebook's logo May 10,    2012 i

People may have a new reason to stop using Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook. The company announced Thursday that it will now keep track of its user’s internet browsing histories and app usages in order to determine what ads to target them with. This is in spite of the fact that three years ago it said it would not do so.

This new program will work even when one is not using Facebook. For example, say you search for information about buying a new television or a certain book. Facebook will then place ads on your page for websites that sell electronic appliances or books.

The question that people are probably asking is, “how is Facebook able to do this?” When a person uses an app on any mobile device that asks for a Facebook login those apps send information back to Facebook for advertising purposes.

You are not immune from this new system when surfing the web on a desktop computer. Companies utilize something called conversion pixels to see if their Facebook ads have brought people to them. For example, a music streaming site might add these pixels to its pages. The pixels can then determine if a visitor is a Facebook user and then Facebook can learn if it had placed an ad for the website in question on that user’s page.

Facebook is also taking advantage of its like button service. If you have ever “liked” a certain business’ or entertainer’s Facebook page, then Facebook will track your web movements with regards to that person or business.

Also, the social network will not honor do not track settings on web browsers. According to a company spokesman, it justifies the decision, “because currently there is no industry consensus, ” about it. But Facebook says that it will honor the settings that limit ad tracking on iOS and Android devices.

This, however, may be seen as an invasion of privacy by the average Facebook user. As Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, told the New York Post, “Facebook seems to have a tin ear when it comes to privacy. They continue to make changes and adjustments that many consumers find objectionable.”

In fact, the website operated by Digital Advertising Alliance, a trade association which helps people op out of Facebook’s targeted advertising campaigns, has reported an increase in visits.

Facebook, as usual, defends its new program by saying that it is to its users’ benefit to have only ads that are the most relevant to them appear on their pages. The company may also be trying to add to its advertising revenue which grew by $7 billion last year.

But Facebook is clearly concerned with not further alienating its users. In contrast to when similar moves were made in the past secretly, this new effort was formally revealed to the public. The company is also now offering its users a service where they can decline having specific types of ads loaded onto their pages and is also letting people inquire into why they were targeted for certain types of advertising in the first place.

In 2011, the company reached a settlement with America’s Federal Trade Commission in which it agreed to privacy inspections every two years for the next 20 years.



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