Facebook Is Tracking You! Here’s How to Stop It
Who is tracking your movements online? You’d assume your ISP, and the government. How about Google? That’s a given. But what about social media sites, like Facebook? Well, they’re in on the act too, and they’re less than forthcoming with transparency.
In fact, in Europe, Facebook has received repeated warnings about user tracking. A Belgian court even threatened them with a €250,000 daily fine until they changed their tracking practices.
Got your interest? Good. Here’s how you stop Facebook tracking you around the internet.
How Does Facebook Track You?
We’ve become a society intent on sharing… everything. How many times do you scroll through your Facebook feed and sigh at the information people are spewing forth? It goes further than that.
The millions of Facebook “Like” and “Share” buttons added to seemingly every website funnel web browsing data into the Facebook advertising algorithm. Consequently, the types of sites you visit away from Facebook will fine-tune the ads shown to you inside the social media site, as well as its other services.
Furthermore, each site with a Facebook button places an individual cookie (what’s a cookie? Wait… what’s a supercookie?!) on your computer. Along with the “normal” tracking information, this file can contain your individual Facebook id number. And even if you’re signed out of Facebook, the tracking id contained in the cookie will inform the mothership of your internet whereabouts.
Facebook has long tentacles. It also owns a number of other popular services. Remember when Facebook bought WhatsApp? How about when it bought Instagram? Users of those services may feel like they’re posting data in a separate social bubble, but it all feeds back into the same Facebook ad algorithm. WhatsApp users can actually turn data sharing off. Instagram users aren’t so lucky.
Here’s What Facebook Presumes to Know
Facebook does, at least, let you see what it presumes to know about you. You can see your Facebook Ad Preferences right here. Some of mine are below.
The joke’s on them: I’ve never rated Call of Duty, but I do like music. Sweeping generalization, right there. Regardless of what they know about me (a healthy amount it’s wrong), it perfectly illustrates the advertising profile being built to serve you better ads.
But I Don’t Have an Account!
Yeah… that doesn’t matter. One of the reasons Facebook advertising is well targeted is the immense amount of websites feeding data into the algorithm. And that includes individuals using sites with a “Like” and “Share” button.
When you visit one of these sites, regardless of your Facebook user status, Facebook receive an IP address, location, browser details, and more.
And the best bit of all? Facebook tracking cookies never expire.
Why Is Facebook Tracking Me?
Advertising and money. They go hand in hand. Internet users are by now used to tracking technology. We’re tracked around the internet by numerous advertising companies, all making use of magical cookies.
In addition, your data, regardless of user status, helps to increase their actionable advertising target data. It is win-win for Facebook. Concise data that their business account holders can make better use of.
Tracking and advertising are (unfortunately) central to the modern internet. Have you ever tried using NoScript or PrivacyBadger (more on these in moment)? Many sites literally break if the numerous tracking scrips cannot run.
How Do I Stop Facebook Tracking Me?
Okay, down to business. How do you actually stop Facebook tracking your movements around the internet? There are several great solutions and, better yet, many of them will stop other advertisers tracking you too.
Some websites rely on scripts. In this case, the script is a small piece of code that calls advertising (and other) trackers to your presence on a page. It is possible to block these scripts from running, on any web page you visit, using a browser extension.
- uBlock Origin is an excellent start. It features a number of built-in script-blocking lists, and is easy to use too. Better still, it has dedicated scripts for Disconnect filters (Disconnect is another useful extension), as well as some that specifically take aim at social media trackers. It is available for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari. I would advise using uBlock Origin and whitelisting your favorite trusted sites — like MakeUseOf! It has blocked malvertising content on more than one occasion!
- NoScript is highly recommended, but can be a steep learning curve. Your internet that works everywhere might suddenly be completely broken because of the blocked scripts. So while your privacy will be excellent, you might struggle to book flights, or even watch a video without tweaking your script settings. In that sense, it is highly customizable.
- PrivacyBadger is one of the next best things to NoScript. Where NoScript is for techies (but worth learning, I might add), you could install PrivacyBadger on your Grandma’s computer, knowing she’ll be protected and able to book flights. PrivacyBadger uses an easy-to-manage system of colored sliders. Green means okay, Yellow means third-party tracking but necessary for a functioning web, Redmeans content and scripts have been disabled. PrivacyBadger is available for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera……Read more>>