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Tuesday, 27 September 2011 11:48

Facebook denies wrongdoing following user-tracking revelation


Social network giant, Facebook, has acknowledged gathering information from logged out users, but claims the practice prevents improper logins and that information is quickly deleted.

Last weekend, Australian blogger and self-defined hacker, Nik Cubrilovic, accused Facebook of keeping track of users' online history even when they are logged out.

'Even if you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit," Cubrilovic wrote on his blog. 'With my browser logged out of Facebook, whenever I visit any page with a Facebook like button, or share button, or any other widget, the information, including my account ID, is still being sent to Facebook."

Facebook promptly defended its practice, claiming that collecting information on users' likes, even after they logged out, ensured the user's identification. Facebook director of engineering, Arturo Bejar, told the Wall Street Journal that data was sent because of how the 'Like" button worked.

'The onus is on us is to take all the data and scrub it," Bejar said. 'What really matters is what we say as a company and back it up."

He said the practice translated the same principle adopted when users tried to log in from a different computer or from a foreign country; in that case, Bejar said, Facebook provided a step-by-step authentication to prove the user's identity and avoid phishing attacks. Bejar claimed collecting cookies served the same security purpose.

According to Cubrilovic, if users wanted to avoid leaving virtual fingerprints logging out of Facebook would not be sufficient. He said users had to manually delete cookies. 'The only solution is to delete every Facebook cookie in your browser, or to use a separate browser for Facebook interactions," he said.

Earlier this week, another Facebook spokesperson, replying to Cubrlovic's blog, told the Huffington Post that the social media used history information to offer a more personalised 'Facebook experience".

'We use cookies on social plugins to personalise content (e.g. show you what your friends liked), to help maintain and improve what we do (e.g. measure click-through rate), or for safety and security (e.g. keeping underage kids from trying to sign up with a different age)," he said. 'No information we receive when you see a social plug-in is used to target ads, we delete or anonymise this information within 90 days".

In the wake of the Google+ initiative, Facebook has recently implemented a series of features and applications, which - it claims - will enable users to reproduce real-life sharing experiences when online: smart lists, subscriptions, enhanced news feed and an interactive 'timeline" that shows all posts since your first Facebook access.

In Facebook words, all these features will enable users to tell the 'story of their life". The question now for users around the world is 'do we want to hear it"?

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