A Computer Associates security researcher is sounding the alarm that Facebook’s controversial Beacon online ad system goes much further than anyone has imagined in tracking people’s Web activities outside the popular social networking site.
Beacon will report back to Facebook on members’ activities on third-party sites that participate in Beacon even if the users are logged off from Facebook and have declined having their activities broadcast to their Facebook friends.
I can’t say I’m surprised – the entire design of Facebook has consistently been geared to extract as much information as possible from their users, and they haven’t exactly been sneaky or subtle about it. Still, a depressing wake up call for all those folks who are blithely spilling their lives all over social networking systems.
They don’t provide much in the way of technical details. However, as the wonderful Web 2.0 world moves us farther and farther away from the web as a collection of simple text pages with HTML tags thrown in for pretties, there are more and more ways that we can be tracked and subverted. We can certainly do more (I do love Flickr, and Google Calendar is a joy), but we expose ourselves to increasingly more risk as a consequence.
(Apparently Facebook has turned off Beacon, although my suspicion is that Beacon is just the tip of Facebook’s data collection iceberg.)