German website Heise recently changed its Facebook Like buttons to be locally-hosted greyed-out images that only transform into real Facebook Like buttons once you click them. In other words, they are not active by default; if you don't click anything, Facebook can't track your visit to Heise.
After the first click, Heise performs an AJAX call and inserts the Facebook Like button dynamically. The necessary Facebook scripts then load and the usual data Facebook requires is transmitted to the social network.
The change means that to Like one of Heise's page, you need to click twice. On the other hand, this presumably results in the page loading slightly faster. Whoever wants the button to work like before can turn it on by default, and will simply have to deal with the consequences, according to Heise.
Unsurprisingly, Facebook didn't like this change. A spokesperson told the German publication that the way it has implemented the Facebook Like button violates the Facebook Platform Policies, specifically quoting this clause:
8. You must not use or make derivative use of Facebook icons, or use terms for Facebook features and functionality, if such use could confuse users into thinking that the reference is to Facebook features or functionality.
Heise has thus changed the look of its greyed-out Facebook icon. Notice how in the screenshot above, the first image (the default for a Heise article) does not use a Facebook logo, while the second image (after the Facebook Like button is enabled) has the official Facebook logo.
It's worth noting that Heise also did the same thing for its Google+ and Twitter buttons. Neither Google nor Twitter has reacted to the change (yet?). Heise said in 24 hours it received over 500 inquiries, including from TV stations and other media organizations, for the custom code it used in its implementation.
Last month, a German privacy group declared using the Facebook Like button leads to profiling that infringes German and European data protection laws. The organization alleged Facebook builds a broad profile for individuals not on the service as well as a more personalized profile of its members. The group also announced websites that use the Facebook Like button would be fined.
Facebook quickly denied allegations that it is not compliant with EU data protection standards. Heise decided not to risk it, and opted to find its own middle-ground solution.
It's not clear if this new image is enough to keep Facebook satisfied. I have contacted Facebook and will update this post if I hear back.
- Germany: Facebook Like button violates privacy laws
- Germany: Facebook facial recognition feature violates privacy laws
- Germany considers banning wild Facebook parties