Facebook increases its deep-seated, parasitical grafting into your brain stem

Read and digest the following, from ReadWriteWeb:

While the focus of today’s Facebook announcements was the new Timeline profile, the Read, Watch, Listen media sharing apps have generated a lot of interest too. These so-called “social apps” haven’t been widely launched yet, but you can get a sense of what they will do by adding a couple of brand new newspaper social apps to your Facebook profile: The Guardian’s app and one from Washington Post.

Be forewarned though, with these apps you’re automatically sending anything you read into your Facebook news feed. No “read” button. No clicking a “like” or “recommend” button. As soon as you click through to an article you are deemed to have “read” it and all of your Facebook friends and subscribers will hear about it. That could potentially cause you embarrassment and it will certainly add greatly to the noise of your Facebook experience.

Anyone remember Facebook’s last foray into implicit broadcasting, Beacon? Back to the subject at hand, it gets worse, as Dave Winer explains:

[A]n announcement was made on his behalf to everyone who follows him on Facebook. Not just his friends, because now they have subscribers, who can be total strangers.

I’m in agreement with Dave in that I presume everything I post explicitly on Facebook is, to a very real extent, public. I don’t really believe in the idea that Facebook’s privacy controls are any more than theatre. Adding implicit posting to Facebook’s arsenal of privacy-destroying weapons takes things to a whole new level, however. The complexity of meaningful access controls to pacify such a thing becomes mind-boggling.

As Dave notes, you’d think you could extricate yourself from this tracking by logging out of Facebook. But no. Nik Cubrilovic takes a look at what information is sent to Facebook as you browse the web:

But logging out of Facebook only de-authorizes your browser from the web application, a number of cookies (including your account number) are still sent along to all requests to facebook.com. Even if you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit. The only solution is to delete every Facebook cookie in your browser, or to use a separate browser for Facebook interactions.

As an aside to the main thrust of this article, Nik points out that the tracking implications of this are enormous, and trample all over the standard “log out after using a public terminal” advice:

There are serious implications if you are using Facebook from a public terminal. If you login on a public terminal and then hit ’logout’, you are still leaving behind fingerprints of having been logged in. As far as I can tell, these fingerprints remain (in the form of cookies) until somebody explicitly deletes all the Facebook cookies for that browser. Associating an account ID with a real name is easy — as the same ID is used to identify your profile.

So, we have:

  • An increasing willingness to implicitly have your activities posted to Facebook.
  • An increasing difficulty understanding who sees what.
  • An increasing difficulty of opting out.
  • An increasing desire to present Facebook as “the Internet”, with windows into other sites from within Facebook itself.
  • An increasing desperation to make money from its product (you).

If this isn’t a privacy disaster waiting to happen, then very little is.

Though I have a dislike of Facebook for many reasons, the cost/benefit ratio has always been such that I’ve stayed. The benefits have stayed the same, but the costs are increasingly sky-rocketing.

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