PC World – Facebook Admits Ad Service Tracks Logged-Off Users

Facebook’s controversial Beacon ad system tracks users’ off-Facebook activities even if those users are logged off from the social-networking site and have previously declined having their activities on specific external sites broadcast to their Facebook friends, a company spokesman said via e-mail over the weekend.

Ok, let me get this straight. You’re not using the service but it is spying on you anyway. That’s spyware, plain and simple. I guess the users agreed to it in the Terms of Use. Now I’m glad I never installed it.

  1. grog says:

    what’s worse is that even though i never really used my account, i found out that my only option was to deactivate it, not delete it.

    like a tattoo or something — how long do you think till all this bad press causes them to implode?

  2. Golly. First Mr. Zuckerberg steals the Facebook source code from his Harvard classmates ( http://tinyurl.com/2xmnhq ), then he turns it into Spyware Central.

    He’s a scamp, that one.

  3. DeLeMa says:

    Naw, he’s a fascist crook. Hmm..maybe an overly motivated peeping-tom ? Evil sick-o in any case.

  4. McCullough says:

    When will these idiots wake up and realize we will eventually find out. Are they intentionally trying to tank their business?

  5. edwinrogers says:

    #1. Me too. After uploading my contacts it started sending invitations to friends-of-friends, who happened to all be my most senior work supervisors. What a shock! I should have known better. And I can’t delete my account, just park it somewhere and hope they don’t repackage and sell it.

  6. Micromike says:

    So they are malicious morons, that’s easy for me to believe. My question is how do you know if their “beacon” software is installed on your computer. I went to the facebook site once and might have created an account. Normally I never let any software install that “calls home” but maybe they didn’t warn us properly.

    Is there an easy way to find and remove the “Beacon”.

  7. eyeofthetiger says:

    I was going to see up a facebook account one day when all the hookers I was calling from craiglists turned out to have city police ani numbers – but just then I decoded a message on a number station about a farmer who was putting down a heifer with a clef hoof. Needless to say, I rounded out with a quarter cut and a story to tell the whispers in the wind.

  8. David says:

    Beacon is not a program installed on your computer, it is a partnership with other companies.

    Say Blockbuster video is a partner (I believe you are) and you rented Star Wars. Blockbuster will notice that your Blockbuster login email has a Facebook account, Facebook will tell all your friends that you like Star Wars.

  9. bags4112 says:

    #1 and #5 – You can delete it. The only thing is, you have to delete the e-mail account you signed up with to do it. That way, there is no way to reactivate it. I deactivated, then every time I would have a few drinks, I would reactivate it to see what was up 🙂

    #6 – I await the info on the “beacon” too.

  10. v says:

    This is speculation, I haven’t analyzed it directly:

    It’s my understanding that Beacon uses the Facebook cookie to identify you when you buy something from say… Amazon. Last time I checked, Amazon itself couldn’t read the Facebook cookie, so it must use a linked piece of javascript from the Facebook domain.

    If this is correct, it open a wide range of methods to block Beacon.

    Has anyone actually tried to read the code?

  11. Improbus says:

    I feel left out. I haven’t even been to the Facebook website … MySpace either.

  12. Phillep says:

    “If users have ever checked the option for Facebook to “remember me” — which saves users from having to log on to the site upon every return to it — Facebook can tie their activities on third-party Beacon sites directly to them, even if they’re logged off and have opted out of the broadcast.”

    So, you can never fully log off if you have /ever/ clicked “remember me”. Bummer.

    #8, David, that article did not say anything about cross referencing e-mail addresses.

    I fully expect that one or another of these outfits is going to start doing exactly that (one of several reasons for having many e-mail addresses or using one of the short term services around on the net), but I don’t see anything about it here.

  13. ArianeB says:

    Facebook has already spoiled a few christmas surprises thanks to the beacon system. Buy something online and the recipient gets an immediate email? thats freaking insane!


    I’m sticking with My Space, even though I don’t use it much.

  14. ECA says:

    what would you think, of a site that HAS MOST of your personal info, shows your wants and LIKES, has lists of ALL your friends, and maybe relatives…and has A GOOD chance of showing your MENTAL abilities, and abnormalities..

    And you are showing it to ANYONE that wants it…
    A giant location to tag and Bag, and send LOTS of SPAM.

  15. Glenn E says:

    You might even say that Paypal is spying on its users too. What with them hooking up with Doubleclick in a major way. What the h*ll is up with that?! Why would Paypal even need to be in bed with Doubleclick? Are they that desperate for additional revenue? Did Big Brother force these two to come together, so as to track everyones’ financial transactions (if not using a major credit card). And still have plausible denial that the feds are behind the tracking, because Paypal and Doubleclick are doing it for them. If so, then just how much of the wired transaction system, has been compromised by this backhanded spying scheme?

  16. Rick Pali says:

    I deleted my account. Nowhere did the help system say how it was done so I asked. I was told I’d have to delete all of the information and files I’ve uploaded and *then* they could delete the account for me.

    This was no big effort as I never uploaded much information about myself. Let’s face it…the site is creepy. I wrote them back after all the info was gone and they wrote me back and said my account was gone.

    Do I believe that they *really* have deleted all my info? Not on your life…but at least I can’t log in again in a moment of weakness.

  17. Nimby says:

    You ain’t seen nuthin’, yet! They’re not only tracking you silly facebook people whether you want it or not, they’re tracking ME if I visit one of facebook’s partner sites!

    Of course, they would never THINK of USING any of this illegal (immoral) information they gather… nooooooo.


  18. ChrisMac says:

    I thought everyone realized this when the Isrealis sold ICQ to AOL…

  19. Alex says:

    great. I post a simple message about a good trip to Bangkok and suddenly all the Google ads are beating out advertising flights to Bangkok song. CREEPY.. Now I find that Facebook is checking my underwear size to profile me as well and sell that profile to advertisers.

    Hello, reading ads are one thing, profiling me just wrong. Google E<@R less than $300 a share in 12 months is my guess. Facebook = never IPOs, also my guess.

    What a strange madison avenue world ‘social networking’ has become. Where is Friendster in all this? 🙂 Quietly reading all your incoming and outgoing messages to better serve you. ah yea.

  20. ECA says:

    Most of you understand the reasoning…
    ‘LITTLE OR NO’ info on Myself..will EVER be placed in 1 site..
    The MORE info they ask of me, is a WARNING NOT to patronize the site.

    NAME and password is the MOST they really need.
    When they get to asking your ADDRESS, and phone number…NOPE, NADA, NEVER.

  21. KarmaBaby says:

    Why is there so much surprise? Social Networking should really be called Social Marketing. As Dvorak says in his pcmag.com column, the whole purpose is to gather data about you, and use it to identify things that can be sold to you.

    This is America. Making money is our primary function. Is there really any more compelling motive for doing anything?


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