Is Facebook spying on you?

I spotted this post on a friend’s public Facebook postings, and found it hard to believe. However, it seems to be true:

Now I just did this, and, sure enough, there was a list of sites I’ve visited, though the last entries were on April 16. Here are a few of mine that were recorded (I’m usually not on Facebook):

Now maybe everyone knows this, and maybe I’m being paranoid, and maybe nobody cares about being spied on (how do they do this when you’re not logged into Facebook?), but just in case, I’ve taken screenshots of what you have to do to not get spied on, and have put them below step by step.

So, following the instructions at the top about for seeing this stuff and deactivating whatever spyware Facebook is using, click on the arrow at the extreme right at the top of your Facebook page:

You will see this. Click on “settings”:

Then click on this bit to the left in blue:


Then click on this:

You’ll get this. Click on the red-outlined bit (you may have to enter your Facebook password):

You’ll see this. It tells you what “off-Facebook activity” is, i.e., how they spy. Oy! Then click on the red box:

You’ll get this (it’s a long process); click on the blue box:

You’ll then get to the money site (for Facebook!). You can click the blue dot to turn off future spying activity, though when you mouse over it, you’ll get a warning like the one below this screenshot:

Clearly, Facebook doesn’t want you to make them stop spying. In fact, because I don’t want to be logged out of WordPress, and because sometimes it’s convenient to log into websites with Facebook, I didn’t do anything. I’m a coward. But I just thought I’d let you know.

 

98 Comments

  1. BobTerrace
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Wow! I also cleared it out and shut down future activity.

    I saw other sites that I shopped at recently such as kohls.com. This is unacceptable.

    I will re-post this for others too.

  2. littleboybrew
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Just another reason I quit Facebook. At least I told then I wanted to quit, they probably lied to me just like they lie to everybody.

  3. GBJames
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this.

    • another fred
      Posted April 19, 2020 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      +1

  4. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Be careful about their other stupid “products” that don’t have “Facebook” in front of the name – like “Messenger”. So when looking for things to turn off, look for “Messenger” also. And so on.

  5. Posted April 19, 2020 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    This is why I never did sign up for facebook.

    • JezGrove
      Posted April 19, 2020 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      Ditto. As they say, if the product is free you are the product.

      • Wunold
        Posted April 19, 2020 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        This statement is as popular as it is wrong in its generalisation.

        One counterexample is Free Open Source Software (FOSS) under the GPL or other free license.

        Secondly, the countless non-profit organisations provide many free services and products without any catch.

        These two came to my mind almost instantly, I’m sure we could find more if we take our time.

        • JezGrove
          Posted April 19, 2020 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

          Fair enough. Maybe “If a profitable tech corporation’s product is free…” .

    • Mark R.
      Posted April 19, 2020 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

      Yup. Never had it, so I don’t miss it. Everything I know about it = toxic. And the counterexamples that Wunold provided are exactly meaningless to me and probably 98% of the world.

      • Wunold
        Posted April 20, 2020 at 2:31 am | Permalink

        Meaningless in what sense exactly? (honest curiosity) I just objected to the statement that you’re the product every time something is free of charge. I didn’t say that we are not the product for Facebook, which we certainly are (“we” meaning everyone who comes even remotely in contact with it, not only its users).

  6. John Donohue
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure that shutting down the visibility does anything but keep you from seeing the truth:

    You are being tracked, period. Additionally, your trail is being sent to Facebook whether you see it or not!

    There is a record of the sites you visit. Period.

    I use a Virtual Private Network. In my highest paranoia, I secretly fear that does not prevent a record of my actual name and identity being linked to a track of my surfing.

    • ploubere
      Posted April 19, 2020 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      I was about to post the same. Our data is what Facebook is mining and selling, and not just them but an unknown number of other data aggregators. There is no enforcement or penalty to prevent them from doing so, and much money to be made.

      VPN’s are a possible alternative, but who knows. At least use Firefox instead of Chrome or Safari, Mozilla is a non-profit and claims to be dedicated to privacy. Definitely don’t use Chrome.

      • Historian
        Posted April 19, 2020 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        The Opera browser, which I think is pretty good, has a built-in VPN. I can’t be sure how well it works, but most websites seem to think I’m in Sweden.

        I have never joined Facebook and I have no intention do so.

    • Mark Perew
      Posted April 19, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Yes. I was just speaking to my students (via Zoom) about Security and Privacy. Companies like Acziom/LiveRamp, Epsilon, etc. have a business model that is based on acquiring and selling your data. Privacy, unfortunately, is nearly dead.

      • Wunold
        Posted April 19, 2020 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

        If security and privacy is of concern to you, you should think about dropping Zoom, as it is known to have severy flaws in both of them (I can recommaen a web search for “zoom schneier” to read what security expert Bruce Schneier has to say about it).

        Do you know Jitsi? It’s a FOSS video conferencing software that you can either use of one of its many free servers, or even set up your own. There are many step-by-step instructions on the web that make its installation reasonably easy for all but the least technically versed.

        I’m running a Jitsi server on my NAS for my friends since we relocated two of our weekly groups of regulars to the virtual world.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted April 19, 2020 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

          I agree with “Wunold” and so find your comment amusing, albeit unintentionally, in that you reference discussing that subject on Zoom. But it’s really quite alarming because it’s my understanding that Zoom hoovers up all kinds of info from participants in the sessions, whether or not they know it and use/sell it to whomever for whatever they want, including giving info to Facebook. They work in tandem with Google, et al.,

          Most Zoom users seem worried only about “Zoom bombing” but that’s simply one of the numerous dangers one encounters using Zoom — most of them covertly parasitic, so you and the people you’re communicating with on Zoom don’t even know you’ve been suckered into them.

          These articles are from British online mag, The Register(“Biting the hand that feeds IT”),https://www.theregister.co.uk/2020/04/03/dont_use_zoom_if_privacy/and https://www.theregister.co.uk/2020/03/27/doc_searls_zoom_privacy/. There are links to more articles about zoom in “keep reading” at the bottom.

          For a quick and accurate audio precis delivered by the droll Harry Shearer, go here, segment “It’s a small world, Zoom’s no privacy policy” https://harryshearer.com/le-shows/march-29-2020/#t=25:19.

          • Posted April 19, 2020 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

            It sounds like Zoom was a victim of their own sudden popularity and marketing hubris. To their credit, they claim they have the security problems, or are in the process of doing so. I’m not sure of their “endpoint-to-endpoint encryption” claim. If they are going to process and store video on their servers, that’s impossible. It appears they’ve had to change their marketing words, as explained here:

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted April 19, 2020 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

              I’ve always preferred Cisco’s webex. I’m not sure why Zoom is used over it as webex has the ability to do whatever zoom does. I suspect it’s affordability but you get what you pay for and institutions that out security first tend to avoid zoom.

              • Posted April 19, 2020 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

                I may be wrong about this but I believe it is because Zoom allows many more users per video connection without having to pay.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted April 19, 2020 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

                Yeah I think that is probably it but I think there are many use cases where webex would do just as well.

              • Posted April 19, 2020 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

                Or Skype.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted April 19, 2020 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

                And I agree about being suspicious about end to end encryption. I don’t buy it.

            • GBJames
              Posted April 19, 2020 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

              Back before I retired, when I had responsibility to oversee the IT operations at our company (last year), Zoom already had a major security problem when they inserted insecure code into MacOS, with no way to remove it and without alerting anyone what they were doing. It was resolved at the time by Apple who released an OS update that forced the bug out. To me it is very distressing that this sort of issue is still in place at Zoom. They definitely need to take security as seriously as they do their marketing.

              • Posted April 19, 2020 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

                How can Zoom insert insecure code into an OS? If Zoom is just a so-called “3rd party developer”, an app violate security in their OS would be Apple’s fault. If Zoom actually worked for Apple and wrote a security bug into their code, it is still Apple’s responsibility.

              • Wunold
                Posted April 20, 2020 at 12:54 am | Permalink

                How can Zoom insert insecure code into an OS?

                See here for a good overview about it: https://objective-see.com/blog/blog_0x56.html

                In short, Zoom tricks users into installing it with admin privileges in calling itself “system”. They also abuse an OS function to gain admin privileges if the user is in the Admin group.

                Although Apple is to blame for making this possible by mistake (I hope), it doesn’t get Zoom off the hook for actually and knowingly abusing it. At least Apple patched that hole in April 2020, and removed the vulnerable Zoom software with another update – which may be the first time they ever did such thing.

              • Wunold
                Posted April 20, 2020 at 12:14 am | Permalink

                I’ll add a link to a quick look (5-6h) at Zoom by a professional German IT consultant (or “paid hacker” as he calls himself). Despite the short time, he found many substantial security flaws in Zoom and its component DLLs, e.g. one that uses another component (curl) in a version from 2014 that has 52 known security flwas.

                https://dev.io/posts/zoomzoo/

                The text is more for the technically versed than for the average user, but its relative shortness makes it a unsetting read even if you only get his conclusions and remarks.

                This and similar articles from the tech community give me the impression that Zoom is a irrecoverable security nightmare.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted April 19, 2020 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

              And I agree about the marketing vs security but it is clear it was a product that just isn’t architected with security in mind at all and clearly appropriate security reviews aren’t conducted. I’m sure they’ve already started looking to hire entire security teams and are scrambling to insert security reviews into their development processes.

              • GBJames
                Posted April 19, 2020 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

                They have recently hired some big names in info sec (Alex Stamos and Katie Moussouris).

                So they are maybe starting to take the issues more seriously.

              • GBJames
                Posted April 19, 2020 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

                Note… I’m not a tech security guy, but I know some and take their word on these matters.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted April 19, 2020 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

                Me neither but I’ve worked on loads of projects as as BSA and project manager where security reviews had to be conducted and I’ve worked closely enough with architects and developers to know to write security requirements into services and projects.

          • Posted April 19, 2020 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

            It sounds like Zoom was a victim of their own sudden popularity and marketing hubris. To their credit, they claim they have the security problems, or are in the process of doing so. I’m not sure of their “endpoint-to-endpoint encryption” claim. If they are going to process and store video on their servers, they’re going to have access to the data. It appears they’ve had to change their marketing words, as explained here:

            https://www.wired.com/story/zoom-security-encryption/

            It’s enough encryption if you don’t want your neighbor hacker spying on your video but probably not enough security if you’re running a virtual crime ring.

    • BJ
      Posted April 19, 2020 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      I use a VPN, ScriptSafe (so I only run the scripts on a site that are required for it to function. No google analytics or anything like that or advertiser data collectors ever running), and uBlock Origin, all on Firefox.

      People don’t realize that Google is the biggest culprit. I recommend everybody use the search engine duckduckgo. Make it your default web browser, purge your cookies (so your previous Google cookies are wiped out), and never visit Google again. Use a VPN and, if you’re savvy enough, use ScriptSafe.

      Even with all that, I know I’m still being tracked to some extent. I don’t have any social media accounts, but I know that Google still knows far more about me than I know about myself solely through the data they’ve managed to collect and their predictive power.

    • BJ
      Posted April 19, 2020 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Oh, and I forgot to add Privacy Badger. I use that as well.

      • grasshopper
        Posted April 19, 2020 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        I shall investigate ScriptSafe; it sounds good.
        uMatrix and uBlock are great, too, for blocking ads and nag-ware. Greasemonkey is also very useful. It can close down your open google accounts automatically prior to a google search being run. You have to install a particular script under Greasemonkey: “Logout from Google Search 1.3.0”. It runs under Firefox. Tampermonkey is the Chrome version of Greasemonkey.

        • BJ
          Posted April 19, 2020 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, you clearly know enough to run something like ScripSafe successfully. With each website you visit, you’ll have to screw around with the scripts on your first visit (but only the first, as your settings for a given script will be saved) to figure out which ones are essential. This website is relatively simple; the only scripts it tries to run are a Facebook script (of course), two reddit scripts, a wordpress script that isn’t necessary, and three wordpress scripts that are necessary for the site to function. You can usually figure out which ones are necessary just by their url alone (for example, each necessary script on this site ends with “wp.com.” There are four wordpress scripts on this site, but it only needs three of them to function; the other is for analytics or data-gathering. So, even when you can spot which scripts are probably needed for the site to function, apply each script one at a time to see if that gets the site to function, as it’s likely you don’t need all of them and some of them are for data collection/tracking.

          It also comes with a host of scripts already designated “distrust,” which are all tracking scripts that tons of websites use and that are never necessary.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 19, 2020 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Yes many websites report back to facebook where you’ve been. It’s why we get targeted FB ads after just looking at a product. One way to prevent this I would think is to log out of FB everywhere.

  7. Posted April 19, 2020 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the information. They don’t make it easy to quit, do they? GROG

  8. rickflick
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Gulp! I turned if off. I suspect there will be some downside, but I don’t care.

  9. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    As the sheep go to slaughter.

  10. P. Puk
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    If you have some IT chops you can go to the Network tab of Chrome dev tools and see this all happening in real time.

    1) Load up https://www.macys.com/

    2) Hit ctrl-shift-i and make sure the Network tab is selected at the top.

    3) Hit ctrl-r to reload the page and the list will be populated with all the resources the page uses as they are requested by the browser when it loads the page.

    4) In the Filter box at the top left type facebook

    5) Now the list will show a file called fbevents.js that is downloaded when the page is loaded.

    Either the developer of the page has requested this file directly or is using some other library/widget that requests this file to be downloaded.

    Facebook calls this “Pixel” and is very frank about it being tracking (spying) software. There are no secrets about this – it’s all public information – and the FB documentation can be found here:

    https://developers.facebook.com/docs/facebook-pixel/implementation/

    Facebook, website publishers and other parties know the power of data-sharing and know that following your private habits is a way to make extra pennies.

    This is the world we now live in. Might as well get used to it.

  11. Posted April 19, 2020 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I have a simple method—no Facebook. But that doesn’t stop the other places from tracking me, I suppose.

  12. d3zd3z
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I have found Firefox Multi-Account Containers to be helpful. I only had about 5 pages in the history, and they were all things I’d clicked on from a Facebook page. The plugin keeps the Facebook cookies from making it to any other pages I view.

    There is also a plugin specifically for blocking Facebook.

    • ploubere
      Posted April 19, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      That’s a good tip. Definitely use Firefox, not Chrome.

  13. Posted April 19, 2020 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    My take on this stuff is that we should just accept that we don’t have any privacy, of this kind anyway, and learn to accept it. You can try to stop them from gathering the data but there’s no easy way to be sure you’re successful. Even if these companies complied with privacy laws, there’s always the chance they’ll be hacked and your data sold to even worse players. You can be an internet hermit but that’s a steep price to pay.

    That said, Facebook seems to be the worst of the big internet companies. Their unwillingness to deal with “fake news” really bugs me. They were abused in the 2016 election but they’re not doing much about it in 2020. Zuckerberg sucks!

  14. d3zd3z
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Something else I’ve been doing is finding any accounts that have a “login with Facebook” and creating real accounts there, and disabling the Facebook connection. It uses the same mechanism as the site tracking (and will break when you opt out of site tracking).

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 19, 2020 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Yeah when you login with Google or FB you’re just giving your information to them to use in their CRMs. The company now has your social media information on you that they can now use for more targeted advertising, etc.

  15. Posted April 19, 2020 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I did all this a few weeks ago and posted on FB how to go about it. The part which bugs me is how all these guys are in cahoots (How else can you express it?) to spy on us.

    That said, Paul has a point. If you use the service, you gotta expect the spying.

    As Chomsky once said about newspapers. They are not selling news to readers. They are selling readers to advertisers. Same principle.

  16. Cindi
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    This does not appear to be accurate information. I went exactly where the information advised and had none of the listed options. So, maybe they are only tagging certain accounts.

    • dogugotw
      Posted April 19, 2020 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      The new Facebook on phone design is a bit different. I suspect it looks different on PC vs Mac. You just need to slog yhrough the x milliond security and privace pages to see what’s what.

  17. Roo
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I can never figure out why Facebook invites wave after wave of bad publicity, ill will, and conspiracy theories for the sake of showing you ads for shoes that you’ve already purchased. I guess they’re still trying to figure out how to monetize a free service.

    • GBJames
      Posted April 19, 2020 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      That’s easy. $$$

    • BobTerrace
      Posted April 19, 2020 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Because it’s all about the money, just like Trump. Facebook takes in a lot of it.

      • dallos
        Posted April 19, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        https://salimvirani.com/facebook/

        “It’s not just what Facebook is saying it’ll take from you and do with your information, it’s all the things it’s not saying, and doing anyway because of the loopholes they create for themselves in their Terms of Service and how simply they go back on their word. We don’t even need to click “I agree” anymore. They just change the privacy policy and by staying on Facebook, you agree. Oopsy!

        Facebook doesn’t keep any of your data safe or anonymous, no matter how much you lock down your privacy settings. Those are all a decoy. There are very serious privacy breaches, like selling your product endorsement to advertisers and politicians, tracking everything you read on the internet, or using data from your friends to learn private things about you – none of these privacy breaches have an off switch. Worse yet, Facebook does these things without ever letting you know, or revealing the damage to you if you ask.

        ..
        They’ve introduced features that turn your phone’s mic on without telling you. Based on their track-record changing privacy settings back without telling you, audio surveillance is likely to start happening without your knowledge.

        They’ve introduced features that turn your phone’s mic on without telling you. Based on their track-record changing privacy settings back without telling you, audio surveillance is likely to start happening without your knowledge.
        …”

        • dallos
          Posted April 19, 2020 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

          Sorry, this is not a reply for you.

  18. dogugotw
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    It’s possible to shut this kind of crap down but not so much on a phone. Browsers have lots of add ins. The EFF has articles that help. Be aware that your browsing experience will get worse and worse as you lock down your system. I play with my settings and give up privacy and security to gain enough functionality to be able to use the web.

  19. Keith
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting this valuable info. I suspect it won’t be long before a software or terms of service update overrides any user preference about offsite tracking. Even for though of us who don’t use Facebook, I often wonder how much they know about my online viewing due to all the complex third-party apps and agreements.

  20. mdeschane
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    “Zucked” by Roger McNamee

  21. d3zd3z
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Also, I suspect there is nothing new about Facebook collecting this information. What is new is showing it, and giving you the option (theoretically) of preventing it. I’m guessing, in their warped minds, this is even an improvement.

  22. blessedreams
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Highly valuable information !Thank you for sharing!

  23. Posted April 19, 2020 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I suspect that we have to give up on blocking the gathering of data of most kinds. It is just too useful. It drives advertising which allows us to get all kinds of services at low cost or free. And, as you probably know, people are working on COVID-19 tracking apps that will need to know people’s location. They promise to anonymize such data but many won’t trust such things and block them or simply not install the app. Should people be allowed to not participate when other people’s health and economy depends on it?

    The future I would like to see is where evil or disallowed uses of personal data is what is tracked and penalized, not so much its gathering.

    • dallos
      Posted April 19, 2020 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      https://www.inc.com/jason-aten/google-facebook-should-not-give-your-location-data-to-government-even-to-stop-coronavirus.html

      “There are a lot of things we need right now. We need better capacity for hospitals and medical professionals to test for Covid-19–or, even better–for people to do it themselves. We need more hospital rooms that can handle highly contagious respiratory diseases. We need more personal protective equipment (PPE) like face masks for doctors and nurses and patients. We need more ventilators to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

      We don’t need the government tracking our location.”

      • Posted April 19, 2020 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        Funny, I guess I didn’t understand that if I let the government know my location, I wouldn’t get better hospitals. /S

  24. Posted April 19, 2020 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I think this piece at the Washington Post gives some more details: https://tinyurl.com/wqxadwt

  25. dallos
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    This is the real off-line spyimg.
    (you are not even connected to the net)

    https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/apps/a24530/facebook-buying-offline-data/

  26. Adam M.
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Facebook has been doing this for years, perhaps nearly a decade. It’s only that they’ve recently given people more options to see and control it.

  27. Jim Danielson
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Facebook tracks you (and everyone else) if you belong to Facebook or not, if you have it turned on or off.

    So do numerous other companies, Amazon, Reddit and Twitter have lots of tracking all over the place, other companies do nothing but track personal information and sell it to anyone who can afford to buy.

    Search Google for “browser fingerprinting”, it is how tracking software can probably tell you (or more accurately, your computer) apart from others visiting websites.

    https://pixelprivacy.com/resources/browser-fingerprinting/

    Your browser reports certain information regarding various settings of your computer to these trackers. These settings vary enough, along with location of your IP that they can track your browsing habits. They may not have your name, but you can become an ‘identifiable entity’ online. Some sites release your name and other information you give them. This how many sites make money through advertisements and selling personal data.

    FYI, this site (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com) has trackers for Facebook, Reddit and Twitter. WordPress inserts them if the host (Jerry Coyne in this case) wants them or not. They are usually represented by a single pixel image someone in the page, usually the same color as the background. It can’t be seen by a person but can be detected by anti-tracking software like Privacy Badger.
    Lots of trackers are in online ads, you don’t have to click on them to be tracked by them.

    Not only can trackers tell where you have been, some can tell what you click on, what text you type and where the mouse cursor was.

    Note that many of the various programs designed to reduce tracking (like Privacy Badger, NoScript or adblockers) can reduce a websites functionality or make it unusable.

    • Jim Danielson
      Posted April 19, 2020 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      FYI, you can test the uniqueness of your browser identity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation site:

      https://panopticlick.eff.org/

      My result:

      “Your browser fingerprint appears to be unique among the 178,294 tested in the past 45 days.”

      I had it down to unique among 236 a while back but it’s a constant cat and mouse game.

  28. Anne
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    This is terrifying and infuriating and I have no doubt that Facebook is committing this unconscionable invasion of privacy.

    But when giving directions on how access Facebook’s super-sekrit hidden method of turning off that spying, the article seems to be written only for people whose current setup matches that of the author. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve never switched to “new Facebook” or I don’t use Facebook on my phone (and never, ever will). But I can’t find any of the settings options that the author mentions.

    So now I’m feeling both incredibly violated by an ongoing gross invasion of my privacy and frustrated because I have no idea how to turn it off.

  29. Vaal
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    I never used Facebook, but there seems to be an even creepier phenomenon lots of people are talking about: Our phones listening in on us all day long (even when we aren’t talking on the phone), for targeted advertising.

    I didn’t even know of it until I experienced some weird stuff myself.

    For instance, a while back while on another vacation (and my phone was on the table but not in use) our family was having a conversation about “what was your favorite of our vacations so far?” I explained emphatically why our vacation to Martha’s Vineyard had been my favorite.

    The next day suddenly “Martha’s vineyard vacation” advertisements are showing up and following me around the web! And I had otherwise not looked up a thing on martha’s vineyard to trigger it. It’s the only travel-related advertisement I’m seeing.

    More recently I phoned a friend who bakes bread and we had a long conversation about how to bake sour dough bread.

    The next morning, as I’m perusing some of my usual stuff on youtube – in this case my audio gear sites – there in the “recommended videos,” nestled completely incongruously within all the other audio gear related recommended videos, was “how to master baking sour dough bread.”

    And I’d never looked up a single thing to do with bread or baking. And that sour dough bread stuff has been following me around.

    Many on the web are reporting similar experiences.

    • Posted April 19, 2020 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I hate that kind of thing. I recently bought some bluetooth headphones. Now I am seeing ads everywhere for the very model of headphones I purchased! Just dumb but I understand how it happens. The advertiser doesn’t have access to my purchase. Still, it’s so irritating.

    • Posted April 19, 2020 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

      That’s happened to me. The ads would crop up on gmail, on topics I’ve just discussed with friends on the landline phone!

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 19, 2020 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

        The phone thing is conincidence mostly. It’s not technically possible to do a lot of that and I’ve heard of people swearing it happens when they have the phone off and then they tell me that it listend even then. That’s impossible. Most likely there was searches done and it can also be a bit of cognitive bias. Like when we learn a new word and hear it everywhere or think about buying a car and see that car everywhere.

        • Posted April 19, 2020 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

          Nope, this is definitely different, and I had considered those things you mentioned, being a skeptic. No searches done on this particular store which my friend and I were discussing. Then the very next day, there were all kinds of ads in my email from that store when I never had ads from them before, including some in my spam folder.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted April 19, 2020 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

            But what you’re suggesting is highly unlikely and illegal. Putting a tap on a landline without detection. All against a bunch of legislation.

            • Posted April 19, 2020 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

              I wouldn’t be surprised.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted April 19, 2020 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

                You realize that would mean a conspiracy between the phone company, all the companies, internet providers and governments. All keeping quiet. No leaks. Even AT&T had been exposed immediately when they carried out W’s orders for spying on citizens. All these thousands of conspirators.

              • Posted April 20, 2020 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

                This strangest of ‘coincidences’ has happened to my daughter too. She’s very tech-savvy and not one to jump to conspiracy-like explanations. It happened on her cellphone though as she doesn’t use a landline. I don’t know how it would factor into this, but the landline provider is also the internet provider. The TV was on at the time of my call, but it’s not one of those new smart TVs. I honestly don’t remember if, at that time, my son’s Xbox was still attached to the TV.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted April 20, 2020 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

                Trust me, it would be highly unusual and very difficult to get away with. The truth most likely is that companies currently know so much about us that they most likely can predict what we want to buy before we do it. All gathered from location data, browsing history and app data all sending information about us out there all the time. They don’t need to go to the illegal and difficult trouble of spying on our phone calls. Indeed, security experts agree with me as in this article.

                Why phones that secretly listen to us are a myth https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-49585682

                The results won’t surprise those in the information security industry who’ve known for years that the truth is that tech giants know so much about us that they don’t actually need to listen to our conversations to serve us targeted adverts.

                The reality is that advertisers have sophisticated ways of profiling users.

              • Posted April 20, 2020 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

                I agree with what you’re saying, but I doubt Sheridan Nurseries would have popped up based on my activities during that period in question. It would have been all things medical, on account of a very ill husband. This is the only time in quite a few years that I spoke about that company on the phone.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted April 20, 2020 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

                Well you know you are on the hook for proving this right? It’s an incredibly extraordinary claim so the onus is on you to explain exactly and technically how this data is captured, stored, deciphered, transmitted and used all secretly and evading laws including taping landlines.

              • Posted April 20, 2020 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

                It seems like the phone company couldn’t do this and offer it to advertisers without revealing an illegal act.

              • Posted April 20, 2020 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

                Of course, I can’t prove it. I can only say how it went on my end. I guess it would have to be put down as coincidence, but a very odd one at that.

              • Posted April 20, 2020 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

                I agree. It seems much more likely that the person clicked on something that reflected an interest in some product, read an article online, or did a search for which the product in question was advertised.

                Our memory of computer interactions is bound to be unreliable. The significance of an action in our own minds may be quite different than to the software tracking our actions. An action we have immediately forgotten can have a huge effect within the ad-verse. Sometimes I look at my browser history to find something I did just an hour or two ago and I am simply amazed at how much stuff is there. I did all that? And those are only the pages I visited, each of which on average pings many other servers fetching ads, images, etc. All of this is potentially mined for information about us.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted April 20, 2020 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

                You don’t even have to click on things. You can be predicted after enough info is taken. There are examples of a girl who was sent coupons for pregnancy related items after data predicted to advertisers she would become pregnant. She had just learned herself I believe she she got these coupons. Another predicted PTSD in people. CRM Systems are used in many situations. If data is collected properly and reviewed by a data scientist, universities can use it to predict drop outs. Sometimes this is seemingly unrelated data like not swiping your key into a dorm for a certain period of time as that becomes correlated with disengagement.

              • Posted April 20, 2020 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

                Sure. And what’s strange, the people who program the AI may not even be able to explain why their software predicted she would get pregnant. The software doesn’t “know” anything but can do a great job of correlation, finding out perhaps that people who do certain things online often buy pregnancy tests two weeks later. This is probably good enough for advertisers but an AI that “recommends” a certain medicine needs to explain why.

        • Posted April 20, 2020 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

          This was famously discussed in “Repo Man” in its repeated occurrences of “Plate O’ Shrimp”.

  30. dallos
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Amazon and Facebook Reportedly Had a Secret Data-Sharing Agreement, and It Explains So Much

    https://gizmodo.com/amazon-and-facebook-reportedly-had-a-secret-data-sharin-1831192148

  31. Steve Barnes
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Wow – thanks for relaying. I revelled in Facebook when I joined as it grew, but I’m near the end of a path to leaving it forever. I’ve definitely never knowingly used it to log into anything but Facebook itself and I feel like I’ve had to beat this stuff down at intervals. It feels so fundamentally mangled compared to what it once was.

    • Posted April 19, 2020 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      I agree. While some things on Facebook are really nice, it always comes across to me as very disorganized and contains lots of features I don’t care about. A user interface design philosophy they need to adopt is that most features should only be seen by those that want to use them. FB uses the opposing philosophy that it wants to be everything to everyone all the time and, if they had their way, you would never leave FB. News is a great example. Who wants to get their world news inside Facebook? I’m sure someone does but I don’t.

  32. chris moffatt
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    When you’re all done with FB check out what Google is doing with your data – if you have a google account start at: https://myactivity.google.com/

    as recommended above don’t use Chrome, or any MicroSoft product. Firefox with either duckduckgo or StartPage will help. And use the firefox privacy and security addons. If using a VPN or proxy server use one not HQed in the US*. You’ll be shut out of some sites or parts of sites but so what?

    * some countries, such as the Netherlands, have much more stringent data privacy laws than the US. An added plus of a good VPN or proxy server is that you get encryption from your device to their servers meaning that your local ISP cannot interpret what comes and goes to your machine.

  33. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    I used to use Safari’s prevent cross tracking feature but so many sites require it that it made doing anything online impossible. I may look into that again. I know Apple has built several features that prevent tracking.

  34. Susan Davies
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Thankyou so much for this info. I would love to know when Facebook implemented this: how long have they been utilising this info and have not told us? I use Firefox browser with an add-on “Facebook Container” that works by isolating your Facebook identity into a separate container that makes it harder for Facebook to track your visits to other websites with third-party cookies.
    I am now going to investigate Privacy Badger and see what it can do for me. It’s all very depressing…

  35. chrism
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never done Facebook or other social media, but a couple of weeks ago I heard there was a mistaken post about me on a local group (I’m a retired physician and it claimed I was working again in a nearby community). I made an account simply to correct this, and then asked Facebook to delete my account. It will take thirty days, they told me, and if you log in again, the clock resets. Wow. I was careful to delete all their cookies and to use Firefox’s ability to use a “container” – a browsing window that is unable leave cookies that may communicate with any other browsing activity. A shame Facebook is so greedy that a semi-smart internet user would shy away from them, but there we are.

  36. scruffycookie
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    This kind of tracking and information gathering is a large part of why I refuse to have a Facebook page.

  37. Jon Gallant
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Everyone is concerned about the totalitarian implications of all this tracking, and rightly so. However, as we all know, its initial purpose and current use is dedicated to that operation that virtually defines the
    USian way of life: advertising. This was more or less predicted more than 60 years ago by Kornbluth and Pohl in their prescient sci-fi satire “The Space Merchants”. An
    earlier Kornbluth satirical story, “The Marching Morons”, could be taken as rather
    prophetic as well.


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