Facebook’s watching you, brother.

by Eray Basar on April 23rd, 2010

it's facebook, brother!

There is a potential side-effect of the new facebook “like” button, which has currently not reached public awareness, but it probably should.

It starts when you leave the facebook website. I usually don’t log out, my friends don’t log out, and in fact most people don’t log out. We all know this is too much of a hassle.

Now, if I visit a website which has integrated the “like” iframe, facebook might just know that I am there. Because I didn’t log out before. And why shouldn’t facebook track the referrer combined with the user id of every requested iframe?

The problem is, we might see millions of websites using this like button soon. Facebook could basically track all your surfing.

While we’re supposed to “like” the crap out of the world wide web, the referrers are going to feed the “open” graph with far more data than only our clicks:  view volume is much higher than click volume. Knowing which websites we surfed on will prove far more valuable to build up the open graph.

Imagine the value of all that precious data for facebook. Ads with retargeting? No problem anymore. In fact, the whole open graph idea might be the very foundation of a new ad system which could be considered as AdSense on steroids. (Even though I believe that it will never reach the quality of “permission marketing” à la AdWords). And it’s just a question of time, when facebook’s going to release website analytics for the publishers (so long quantcast!!).

Unfortunatly, this idea is quite scary. Facebook is moving at a pace that political and social boundaries simply don’t. Let’s see how much further they can go.

The social fatigue might be close, brother.

(They already know, but you can still click the button for the fun of it!)

  1. This is everything but new. Facebook connect did already load from Facebooks Servers and was able to track everything we did. Facebook connect ads are going to be a real competitor to Adsense in 1-2 years but it’s Google who started this. If you like privacy, stay at home, watch tv, don’t enter the internetz…

  2. Admitted, but iframes are much easier for sites to implement.

  3. Randolf, the point is that we’ll see the like button on almost every website, in contrast to the connect button. This will allow tracking on a whole different scale.
    Plus, i don’t remember that I’ve ever provided google with personal infos. That’s a huge difference, at least for me;)

  4. Eray, you don´t remember providing personal infos to google? well, that´s scary indeed. You do use gmail, don´t you?

  5. Sebastian Deutsch April 26, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    @Lrock, @Randolf – please note that the google privacy statement says that they just use this data for internal use. In opposite to facebook who are saying that they will sell the data to 3rd parties. I’m not a privacy nazi – in fact I like open graph API and what you can do with it. But I think that OAuth (or similar tech) needs another layer which let you control your privacy settings.

  6. I just went thru facebook’s cookies after logging out — looks to me like your user id might very well be in one of the remaining cookies (like datr)
    So the same thing applies after logging out, right?

  7. This is true….

  8. I think the point is that there’s a difference between Google and Facebook in that Facebook has a large amount of your personal information. It’s the point of Facebook. Google, by default, doesn’t.