One Man Requested His Digital Finger Print On Facebook Which Came Out To Be More Than 1 Thousand Pages Long

October 13, 2011
Kim Cameron

Max is a 24 year old law student from Vienna with a flair for the interview and plenty of smarts about both technology and legal issues.  In Europe there is a requirement that entities with data about individuals make it available to them if they request it.  That’s how Max ended up with a personalized CD from Facebook that he printed out on a stack of paper more than a thousand pages thick (see image below). Analysing it, he came to the conclusion that Facebook is engineered to break many of the requirements of European data protection.  He argues that the record Facebook provided him finds them to be in flagrante delicto.  

Read more at identityblog.com

Regarding the “Like” button: the advertising and audience metrics industries have been able to track user behavior in great details across most sites they visit for well over a decade. It’s even sneakier because with those, there’s no “manifestation” of what they’re doing, aside from, for example, seeing an ad on a site that is related to the previous site you were on ( http://www.fetchback.com/ ). At least with facebook, all you have to do is not create an account with them, although they could, in theory still track you. If you’re creating an account you are indeed “opting-in” to this sort of tracking which is again, more control over your privacy than you’ll ever have with the advertising/audience metrics industries.

But one could persist on arguing that you don’t have to create an account with facebook to be tracked via that “Like” button, because they could indeed in theory still cookie you and track your browsing behavior across sites even if they don’t exactly know who you are. But if you start assuming this, then you should probably assume that Google’s “Analytics” platform could be doing the same: Just about every site in the World has GA tags on their pages to track their traffic metrics. While GA “reports” are tied to a specific “Site ID”, *technically* they *could* track individual users across all sites they visit.

And while we’re at it then, Google’s “+1″ button has the same theoretical capabilities as Facebook’s “Like Button”.

But let’s just not stop here. Think of every “site add-on” out there, that is popular on many sites and gives you some sort of “extra”, such as social bookmarking buttons, widgets, apps, any popular “site add-on” platform is in a prime position to track incredible amounts of data about every user out there. Twitter’s “tweet this” buttons are in the same boat.

Facebook’s “Like” just has more visibility right now.

So if Max is going to be serious about this privacy battle, he’s got thousands more CDs to request.

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