Facebook, love it or hate it

Facebook Back in March Facebook said that about 1.65 billion people used the site every month, not bad when you consider that the total number of people using the internet globally is around 3.17 billion.

With such an audience Facebook plans to collect information about all internet users through their ‘Like’ buttons and other pieces of code present on web pages across the internet. That will enable them to target ads to not just Facebook users but also to non-Facebook users.


Say for example a non-Facebook user visits a website with recipes for cooking, then Facebook through plug-ins, cookies and basic browsing information might determine that this person is interested in cooking and target them elsewhere on the net with ads for cooking related products. The cookies [small pieces of code] are placed on your device which can then be used to identify you as you move around the internet.

Facebook-trackingYou are already being tracked by other publishers and media companies, Google e.g., but what it means to Facebook is that they will be able to sell and place more of the online ads to aid the revenue gathering. [They generated over US$17billion from ads last year].

Facebook do say that members will be able to opt out of seeing ads outside of the social platform based on their on-Facebook interests. But can they?

In Europe a new report claims that Facebook is continuing to monitor browsing habits even when users have explicitly opted-out of tracking and also individuals who do not have a Facebook account. This violation of European Consumer Protection Law appeared to continue in spite of an update to Facebook’s privacy policy in January. It is also claimed that the tracking cookies are stored on a user’s machine even if they deactivate their account.

As usual, it comes down how best to make money out of advertising to you and that means tracking you as much as possible.

Facebook did respond to the report saying that it was wrong on a number of points and that a fix was under way. They also disputed some of the terms, e.g. the definition of ‘tracking’ saying that whilst Facebook does receive standard ‘web impressions’ or website visit information when people are visiting sites with their plug-ins or other integration, but Facebook asserts that the report misleadingly calls that ‘tracking’.

Facebook points out that it is offered free of charge and hence ‘we show ads we think are relevant to people’s interests’.

facebook-ecosystemThe long and the short of it is that if you don’t want to be spied on leave Facebook.

You may wish to know just how much does Facebook actually know about you? Well, you can download your Facebook history, but be warned, it can be a really worrying amount of information, because it is everything you’ve ever done on the social network. It knows when you’ve logged in, where you’ve logged in, the ads you have clicked on, the people you’ve unfriended, the locations of the photos you’ve snapped, videos uploaded and every event you’ve ever been invited to, whether you went or not. And that’s not all.

Should you wish to download your history this is how, but if you find that confusing you can as a member of Kapiti SeniorNet attend a ‘How do I..?’ workshop and get help from the friendly volunteer tutors there to help you:

Click the down arrow on your Facebook account and head to “Settings”.
At the bottom of “Settings” you’ll see “Download a copy of your Facebook data”, click it.
On the next page click “Download Archive” and enter your Facebook password for security confirmation.

You’ll now be sent an email with your entire archive. The time this takes is very much dependent on how large it actually is. The bigger it is, the longer it takes to come through.

A time-sensitive link will arrive in your in-box prompting you to download your archive.

The file comes down as a .zip file, that means it is a compressed file, so you’ll need a .zip file extractor to unzip the file [from e.g. winzip or Unzip] unless you are already on Windows 10 or Mac as both OS X and Windows 10 handle this without the need for extra software.

Now you can browse your way through a set of web page-like stores of information. For instance, “index.htm” is an archived version of your Facebook profile including past relationships, jobs and education institutions.

Having downloaded the information does not mean deleting it from Facebook’s archives, but at least Red ridinghoodyou are now aware of how much they know about you.

This will not, of course, deter you from using Facebook in the future if you are a fan of social media, so do enjoy your time on Facebook and on the net.