Facebook not-so-secretly records your stalking habits

Facebook not-so-secretly records your stalking habits

Summary: Facebook monitors whose profile you visit -- friend, or otherwise. Now it has been discovered, what else can Facebook do with your usage data?

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It has long been believed that Facebook employees can access your data -- or at least, have the means to do so, if necessary. Governments are a little more open about this, and actively use social media sites to collect information of persons of interest.

But a lot of mystery surrounds what the California-based social network actually do with your data. One particular area has been discovered, however.

It turns out that Facebook records whose profiles you visit, and ranks them based on scores -- to then deliver the most accurate search results.

Discovered by a startup working on an autocomplete search facility for their upcoming website, they discovered a client-side code script which can be executed within the browser, to display Facebook's 'rankings' from your profile.

Facebook uses a server-side script, loaded when you use the site, called first_degree.php. This acts as a ranking algorithm, likely to be based on those who you interact with, the profiles you visit, who you chat and communicate with and those who you have recently become acquainted with.

The higher the negative number, the more likely the person attached to it will display in Facebook's autocomplete search -- at the top of the window.

While visiting someone else's profile does not affect the global search rankings of Facebook profiles -- so it cannot be 'Google-bombed' -- Facebook only reflects these to the individual user.

As described by the discoverers, there are probably two crucial files -- one that opens your "first degree" friends, and another which loads your "first degree" pages and events. By indexing these results over time, it allows Facebook to deliver seemingly the best user for the search query.

But perhaps more worryingly, this is client-side, making this data available to the computer you are using -- and any malware lurking on it, too.

After trying this out for myself, not only is it relatively accurate, with a few odd exceptions, I was overcome with a sense of violation.

Why is Facebook recording which profiles I visit the most? What other data collection means is Facebook using to 'enhance the experience'?

What is not clear is how Facebook directly uses this information outside of the search function. What is clear, however, is that Facebook is a goldmine of information. Even clicking on someone's profile can alter the algorithm-like functions of the site, to seemingly rank one person higher than the other.

Talk about creepy.

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Topic: Social Enterprise

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17 comments
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  • RE: Facebook not-so-secretly records your stalking habits

    of course they track all your use of THEIR service...
    CobaltDragon
    • The problem here is when they do it on your local machine, or, worse, on ..

      @CobaltDragon: ... a computer in a library or in an Internet cafe, which are not exactly private.

      This information should be protected very well.
      DDERSSS
  • Message has been deleted.

    deaf_e_kate
  • RE: Facebook not-so-secretly records your stalking habits

    Big Brother may be watching, but with millions of subscribers, should I really be worried that he is watching ME? If I was that concerned, I wouldn't use the site. It isn't compulsory
    garyq@...
  • RE: Facebook not-so-secretly records your stalking habits

    If you dont want people to see it dont put it on face book which includes details in your profile. simple...
    ronangel
  • RE: Facebook not-so-secretly records your stalking habits

    That they track where you've been on FB should be obvious. How they do it is interesting.

    I have searched for old friends who are not on FB, but found people with the same or similar names. Visiting their profiles, I found them not to be whom I thought.

    But FB continued to suggest those people as friends -- still do after many months of ignoring the suggestion.

    FB's records also are obvious in their default "Top" news presentation on your own wall. Those people you visit most are featured there. You have to select "Most Recent" in order to get everyone, including those you don't visit or post to, but would like to hear what they are doing.

    Yes, FB keeps track of profiles visited. For me, it's an annoyance and messes up what I would rather be seeing. Actually, I haven't been there for a while, so it may have changed, like their fluid privacy settings.
    donden@...
  • RE: Facebook not-so-secretly records your stalking habits

    Anyone at this late date who does not realize EXACTLY who is stalking whom in all this is a blissfully ignorant fool. <br><br>Arab Spring notwithstanding, FuckBilk represents AND warrants the absolute WORST suspicions anyone has ever had about future shock technology run amok. <br><br>So how MANY warnings do you people need by now, putting your lives on (the) line, literally! ???
    RRawpower
  • RE: Facebook not-so-secretly records your stalking habits

    If you're paranoid about a _social_ networking site collecting information on your _social_ life, then either don't put that information on the site or don't create a profile at all. Because this is what these sites are for: putting your life online. And the only way to achieve that, is to store it on the company's servers.

    BTW, client-side data leaks like the one you described are among the main reasons I never log on to any websites when I'm at an unfamiliar computer system. And no intelligent person should, ever. Not even with HTTPS, as there are plenty of nifty tools available to subvert those measures.
    peckjonathan@...
  • RE: Facebook not-so-secretly records your stalking habits

    Websites have always had the legal and technical capacity to do this. When you visit a website, it may have embedded code in any given page that tells them what website you have just come from and what site you go to from theirs. They can tell how much time you spend on any given page in their site, and which links you clicked.

    This has been a legal use of html code since the beginning of the Internet. That Facebook, a site that generates its supporting income by selling your social media data to its advertisers, has found a way to monetize that legal right to a more nuanced degree should not come as a surprise to anyone.
    Deanya
  • RE: Facebook not-so-secretly records your stalking habits

    To me this is not surprising. Considering the number of people on FB and the amount of data that is being generated daily, its a wealth of data. FB themselves might not know what they are going to do with the data but they sure as heck going to categorize as much as they can in case they have a use for it in the future. I must admit the client-side code is more than a little scary. And now that its public info you know its going to get abused and exploited. What facebook records of your surfing habits after you log into FB and not explicitly log out is probably going to freak people out even more.
    rengek
  • RE: Facebook not-so-secretly records your stalking habits

    This is one of the reasons why I don't use facebook much anymore. I might post to my wall from outside sites, like this one, but I rarely even check my fb pages anymore. I'd rather rely on email, snail mail, or phone to communicate with people. Technology is grand, but at what price? How much do you value your privacy? Sometimes I think it will come to a point in the future where everyone will be required to have a chip which can track all you do.....
    kentuckywoman2
  • RE: Facebook not-so-secretly records your stalking habits

    Private browsing (Firefox) browser tells websites I don't want to be tracked. Clear cache history & cookies for FB and adblock kills the targeted ads anyway. You can abuse FB tracking pretty easily.
    Home Grown IT
  • It's Normal (Except it's client side)

    Not only Facebook, I think most other websites/services track what you do on their empire.

    This helps them to understand what the users look for, and provide a better experience. (Yes, that means better ads as well)

    End-users love integration and smart software. For example, don't you like when Google predicts the last part of your search query ? When Gmail pops up a message box and say "you mentioned I attached ... But your email doesn't have attachments. ..." and you get a chance to attach that zip file you forgot ?
    When Facebook suggests a friend you met in the last week ?

    Problem of course is that this information is available for client side scripts WITHOUT going through facebook's API, so you won't get a chance to click "Allow" or "Cancel".
    Madushan Siriwardena
  • Stop fear mongering, stop diluting the news

    It's called edge rank, and it's been in discussion for years.<br><br>I don't know why you suddenly decided to bring this up now. It's been a well-known fact for years that this is how Facebook chooses what to put on your newsfeed page.
    reinux
  • RE: Facebook not-so-secretly records your stalking habits

    link dead? is there another copy of the script?
    other *
  • RE: Facebook not-so-secretly records your stalking habits

    WHy you trying to scare people? Facebook has that stuff in place so that when you search for stuff on their site, it yields more relative results! Let's help everyone's conscience move forward, not backwards...Nobody should have stuff to hide! If you got stuff to hide, then you probably shouldn't be do whatever it is you can't let someone know!
    GBleezy
  • Nothing New about Facbook

    Yeah there is nothing New about Facebook being so open to the Facebook Employees and the CIA I think the main thing is that we are Aware of these things before we hear about it I mean the CIA already and has been using Facebook to profile certain criminals and Political Activist
    Also for the secret Convert Gov ops for their own selfish gain'
    robertthegeek8