9 creepy ways Facebook is tracking your every movement, from the shops you visit to the messages you don't send Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 28th Jun 2016
Beware, Zuckerberg is watching you…
You know the drill – if a service like Facebook is free, then you're the product. That means letting it know everything about you, including your age, job, friends, family members, tastes and quirks. But Facebook is taking it a step further, and keeping tabs on not only these, but all your activity too.
How? Have a read and find out. Though a word of warning: it might put you off social networking for good.
1. FACEBOOK MONITORS WHICH SHOPS YOU VISIT
Make no mistake, Facebook is – mostly – a very sophisticated way of selling advertising. But in recent years, doubts have begun to emerge as to how effective it is at translating ads into actual sales. Now Facebook is trying to prove its worth, but in a rather creepy way.
Starting soon, the social network will use its location-based services feature to monitor which shops you visit. That way, it can show advertisers that so many people who saw their ad ended up going to one of their bricks-and-mortar shops. Bully for them. But it's all a bit Big Brother-ish for our liking.
2. FACEBOOK CAN SEE EVERY LINK YOU CLICK
Obviously Facebook knows a ton of information about you, like your age, where you live, where you went to school, and anything else you've put on your profile. But it also harvests data on your other web activity, like online searches and information you share with retailers.
Facebook claims it's all in order to serve users more relevant adverts. However, critics claim the social network is prioritising profits over users' privacy. Perish the thought…
3. AS WELL AS WHERE YOU GO IN THE REAL WORLD
It's not just your web habits or where you shop that Facebook is watching – it's keeping tabs on you wherever you go. By agreeing to its terms and conditions, you've agreed to let it track your "device locations, including specific geographic locations, such as through GPS, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi signals".
In other words, wherever you go, Facebook knows about it. Though if you only use Facebook on a desktop computer, it won't be able to follow your every move. Just one more reason to use Facebook at work, then.
4. FACEBOOK IS MAPPING YOUR FACE
If you've ever wondered how Facebook knows who's in a photo with you and suggests you tag them, the answer is rather worrying: it's been mapping all of our faces in order to pick us out of a crowd.
5. AND IT KNOWS WHICH FILTERS YOU INSTALL
Undoubtedly you've seen people on Facebook whose profile pictures have a rainbow filter. That's because they're some of the 26 million people who installed Facebook's Celebrate Pride app last year. Facebook knows the number was 26 million because it keeps tabs on which filters you use, as well as what other apps you install.
The social network has confirmed that it doesn't use this data to target adverts, or to extrapolate information about its users. But it is watching exactly what you're doing, down to which tweaks you make to your own profile picture. Scary.
6. IT EVEN RECORDS THE POSTS YOU DON'T MAKE
Amazingly, Facebook even takes note of what you type on the site but never post. That means it knows about those drunk messages to your ex that you thought better of and deleted before you could post.
However, it can't actually read what you wrote, which is a godsend. That's because it can't monitor which keys were pressed. Though it can record when characters and words are typed, how many are typed, and if the typed characters were deleted or abandoned.
In the study Self-Censorship on Facebook, data scientist Adam Kramer (who works at Facebook) and student Sauvik Das analysed the html element of each page for 3.7 million Facebook users. Every time text was entered, even if it was never posted, they could track the changes in the html code. According to the study, 71% of us type something on Facebook then delete it without posting. If only more people had that kind of filter.
7. AND IT TRACKS YOU IF YOU'RE NOT A FACEBOOK USER…
Last year, Facebook admitted it had tracked users who don't have a Facebook account, though it claimed this was because of a bug that has since been fixed. (Hmm, a likely story.)
It was claimed a bug mistakenly sent cookies to some people who were not Facebook users, allowing the social network to track their online activities. "This was not our intention," Facebook said in response. Maybe not, but it's worrying all the same.
8. …EVEN IF YOU'VE NEVER USED FACEBOOK IN YOUR LIFE
A couple of weeks ago, Facebook announced it will track all internet users – whether they're on Facebook or not – in order to target adverts to them. Previously, it only showed adverts to its users when they used websites and apps in its Audience Network advertising network. Now it will tailor ads to anyone who visits a property that's within the Audience Network.
It will do this by using Like buttons and other pieces of code on web pages across the internet. Facebook claims there will be an option for all users to opt out. Just don't expect it to be easy to find.
9. FACEBOOK CAN EVEN BE USED TO TRACK YOUR SLEEP
OK, admittedly this one wasn't Facebook itself, but still, it's pretty creepy. Danish hacker Søren Louv-Jansen discovered that most of his friends checked Facebook first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Because Facebook Messenger makes public when a user was last online – even if they've opted out of chat – it's easy to create a program that automatically scrapes Facebook for this data. Which is exactly what Louv-Jansen did.
His sleep-tracking program told him when his friends logged on and off, hence letting him know when they went to sleep and when they woke up. Obviously the data wasn't 100% accurate. But as a broad picture of people's sleeping patterns, it's pretty great, especially considering it only took a couple of hours to make.