Social Sites Are Tracking Your Web Surfing

Who wants to enter a password whenever they have something to tweet or share on Facebook? No one, that's who. Especially if you've been trying to be better about using hacker-resistant passwords and as a result you now have to mouth-breathingly tap out the garbled term "SzVdEj#b£v@Fa?G" every single freaking time.

Unfortunately, if you're staying logged in, you're also staying visible to nosy social media tracking tools. Regardless of whether you've closed your browser or even restarted your computer, sites like Facebook, Google, and Twitter can track what you're surfing until you actually log out of your account.

Well, that's super. I just took a peek at my browsing history and it currently shows I've searched for "adult Stiffy awards," "8 minute arms," "Staub sex tape," "see it jiggle," and "Kutcher D-list," to name a few. I don't even want to know what kind of advertising demographic this puts me in.


The culprit for this particular Internet privacy invasion is the social widget, which often appears in button form next to web content. You know, the buttons that beg you to "like" or "tweet this!"—they're everywhere these days, having been added to millions of web pages in the past year. Facebook's buttons now show up on a third of the world's 1,000 most-visited websites, and buttons from Twitter and Google appear on 20-25% of those sites.

You only have to log in to your Twitter or Facebook account once in the past month for the sites to glom onto your browsing habits. Even if you don't actually click the button, your presence is duly noted by the widget. Have you ever noticed one of those sidebar graphics on an article telling you which of your Facebook friends liked it? You haven't clicked a thing, but somehow the widget KNOWS WHO YOU ARE. Gah.

Suddenly I have that Hall & Oates song stuck in my head.

Private eyes
They're watching you!
They see your every move …

Facebook, Google, and Twitter say they don’t actually use the information to track users. They also claim that the data is anonymized and swiftly deleted—Facebook within 90 days, Google within 2 weeks, and Twitter says “quickly.”

If, however, you'd rather avoid the whole "HI LINDA YOUR FRIEND MARY ALSO LIKED THIS ARTICLE ON TIJUANA DONKEY PORN*" issue, just log out of your account. Yeah, you'll have to re-enter your password more often, but it seems like you can have either convenience or privacy these days—not both.

*Not that I've ever looked for such a thing, you sicko.

Did you know about the tracking ability of these widgets? Does it bother you?

Image via Flickr/gerlos

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