Facebook: The Spy Who Liked Me

Getting people to like each other is one of the best ways to know what they’re saying, doing and planning. They open up. They trust. They share.

All great spies know this.

So does Facebook.

According to an article by social network researcher Arnold Roosendaal, Facebook’s Like button is more than just a sharing tool. In his paper, tittled Facebook Tracks and Traces Everyone: Like This!, Roosendaal states:

…[the Like button] is also used to place cookies on the user’s computer, regardless whether a user actually uses the button when visiting a website. As an alternative business model this allows Facebook to track and trace users and to process their data. It appears that non-Facebook members can also be traced via the Like button. [emphasis mine]

(I urge readers to download the paper, especially if you want to know more about the work Facebook does behind the scenes with its Like button and other Social plugins and Facebook Connect. Go ahead.)

What’s key here is that even if you don’t have a Facebook account or aren’t logged in to Facebook, the company is likely going to track what you do on the Web.

Since Facebook knows so much about you – your email, your birthday, your contacts, etc. – the Like button could be one of the tastiest cookies a spy could ever eat. Well done, Facebook. Well done indeed!


Think of the potential Healthcare privacy implications here.

What will Facebook know, or make, of your health data?

Would Facebook offer you something useful for your health in return?

For example, Facebook could suggest Friends or Groups with similar health concerns and conditions based on the data it collects. Or it could suggest healthcare games or other applications?

Alternatively, Facebook could enable advertisers or data miners to use the data however they wished.  As far as I can tell, Facebook has no obligation to HIPAA rules – and neither do application developers or other third parties.

The healthcare ramifications of Facebook’s presence on the Web and its ever-growing knowledge of user data and behavior are bigger than I think we’ve realized.

It’s unlikely that you will see much by way of governmental regulation over Facebook in this regard to privacy. Why? Well, what government would want to impede an endless and continuous flow of personal data into a central repository that it couldn’t have dreamed of creating on its own? None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Some people may not care about their privacy. Or: they might not know that they care because they don’t realize just how much data they are revealing as they browse and otherwise use the Internet.

So users and non-users of Facebook should know how their data is being used. How – or if – that kind of awareness is raised is up for question.

Regardless, one thing is becoming clear: Facebook is on its way to virtual omniscience.


Do you see the picture emerging with the rise of Facebook?

Do you still see Facebook as a social network or social platform? Or do you see it’s potential to become a vast intelligence agency that knows more about your behaviors than you do?

There are other players who also spy on us. They don’t call it that, but that’s what it is. Google and Facebook, for instance, are trying to catch up with each other’s going concern so they can rule all. A big war is shaping up. Spy versus spy.

Facebook is the spy who likes me.

Facebook is the spy who likes you.

Not sure if that’s a good thing. But there’s probably not much we can do about it. I guess you could watch this then share it on Facebook and see who Likes it:

BTW: more on mirrors.

@PhilBaumann @HealthIsSocial

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