A helpful reminder about just how much Facebook stalks you on the internet

Graham Cluley
@gcluley

A helpful reminder about just how much Facebook stalks you on the internet

Seriously, do you still have a Facebook account?

Well, despite the site being considered increasingly unhip amongst younger internet users and refusing to say sorry after letting hackers steal information from 500 million accounts, it appears that billions of people still haven’t managed to kick their dirty little Facebook habit.

Maybe a Twitter thread posted this weekend by Zamaan Qureshi of The Real Facebook Oversight Board will help you reconsider your continued membership of the site.

Qureshi downloaded a copy of the data that Facebook stored about him (here is how you can do that too), and “was unsurprised to learn that Facebook is following [him] all over the internet.”

In a short video and subsequent thread posted on Twitter, Qureshi details some of the hundreds of websites that have shared information with Facebook about him, usually in an effort to “personalize the user experience” (also known as show more relevant ads).

That’s how Facebook knows he visited Kamala Harris’s website, where he orders his pizza from, that he applied to Fordham University, and more.

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This is probably a surprise to many Facebook users. I suspect many Facebook users think they only have to worry about the data that they personally share about themselves on Facebook, by posting messages on the site, connecting with their friends, and liking posts.

But the truth is that Facebook knows much more about you than that, by collecting data from your activities off-site as well.

And yes, you can clear your history on Facebook and tell it not to collect off-Facebook activity in future…

But guess what?

Facebook will still actually be receiving information about the websites you visit…

The good news is that there are things you can do about this.

You can turn on anti-tracking features and ad blockers in your web browser, you can use add-ons like Facebook Container to stop Facebook peeking at your visits to non-Facebook sites, or you can take my preferred option which is to permanently delete your Facebook account and all the data it contains.

I know that quitting Facebook is hard for many people. But the sooner you do it, the sooner you’ll find that your life can actually be enriched by no longer being in an abusive relationship with Mark Zuckerberg’s haven of hate.


If you’re thinking of leaving Facebook, why not listen to this “Smashing Security” podcast we recorded all about the subject:

Smashing Security #75: 'Quitting Facebook'

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

5 comments on “A helpful reminder about just how much Facebook stalks you on the internet”

  1. Anyone know if Facebook also collects data gifted to it by other sites for none -Facebook users – would seem trivial for them to set up ghost accounts for non-members?
    Also what is the extent of gifting of data from e.g. .gov sites ?

    1. They're called shadow profiles.

      https://theconversation.com/shadow-profiles-facebook-knows-about-you-even-if-youre-not-on-facebook-94804

      1. Cheers, Graham; So basically "traffic analysis" coupled with "the fist" to quote the other GCHQ and probably sharing even if only inadvertently :)

  2. I was replying to a post on Facebook about how it is now legal to smoke a joint on the streets of New York, and I posted a jocular reply in the form of an picture of the twin towers passing a spliff to each other as smoke billowed out of them. That image has got me a 24-hour ban from Facebook! That image was saved from a Facebook post a couple of years ago, so I can only assume they are getting more draconian in their AI policing of posts. Consequently, I am now leaving my Facebook account alone, but leaving it in place for my Wordfeud login (I don't want to lose my account there because of the rating I've built up over the years).

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