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Your online privacy – or lack thereof

Posted on: November 28 2017

We often joke that Google knows more about us than our family but did you know that Facebook tracks everything we do online?

Facebook say that they use this information to target better advertising at us; but there are real privacy concerns when it comes to this data and how it’s used. Some people even think Facebook listens to our conversations to target better ads, although Facebook has denied this repeatedly.

Even if you don’t use Facebook, they are collecting data about you. So, should you be worried by this and what can you do about it?

How does Facebook track you?

You know those “Like” and “Share” buttons that seem to be on every single webpage, including this one, these days? Well, they funnel all your web browsing data straight back to Facebook.

Even if you don’t have a Facebook account, they still receive an IP address, location, browser details, and more every time you visit one of these sites.

Facebook does, at least, let you see what it thinks it knows about you. You can see your Facebook Ad Preferences here.

Should you be worried?

This depends on which way you look at it.

Advertising revenue is what keeps the internet going. Companies like Facebook aren’t providing you with a free way to share cat videos and baby photos out of the goodness of their hearts. Your data provides them with saleable information that their business account holders can make use of.

They track where you go and what you do online so that they can show you advertisements that are relevant to you; ads that you want to see, when you want to see them. Surely that’s better than being served a bunch of random ads for products that don’t interest you at all.

On the other hand …

If you do have a Facebook account, you’re trusting them with a phenomenal amount of personal information; from your age and place of birth to employment history and family relationships.

Facebook is probably the only company on the planet with the power to look into the minutiae of your life, and they bundle that information up with offline data purchased from outside firms – such as loyalty card purchase histories, magazine subscription lists, and credit reports. Whatever they gather from those searches is then fed into their advertising algorithms to draw further conclusions about you and others like you.

It’s up to you to decide whether this is a fair use of the data you’ve willingly gifted them in return for using their platform; or incredibly invasive.

What can you do about it?

If you find the idea of Facebook learning more about you than you choose to tell them unpalatable; I’d recommend using an add-on like Ghostery to identify and block tracking technologies and protect your online privacy.

Ghostery is a browser extension that will scan a website as it loads and show you all the tracking cookies that load with that site, including Facebook Pixel. It also gives you the option to prohibit those cookies from running across the internet.

Ghostery can be installed on all major web browsers; and offers a mobile browser with anti-tracking features as standalone app for Apple and Android.

At the end of the day, you need to decide if your online privacy matters. If you don’t mind what data big internet companies collect about you, then that’s fine. However, if you value your online privacy and how your data is managed then I highly recommend using Ghostery or a similar product.

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