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New study reveals that Facebook tracks logged-out users in ‘violation’ of European Union law
TL;DR : New Study reveals that Facebook tracks people without Facebook accounts, logged out users, and EU users who have explicitly opted out of tracking.
It is already known that Facebook tracks its users for providing them with contextual ads but a new study reveals that Facebook is tracking users who have logged-out of FB and even those who have opted out of FB tracking feature.
A study commissioned by the Belgian data protection agency and conducted by members of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Law and ICT/Centre for Intellectual Property Rights (ICRI/CIR) of KU Leuven, the department of Studies on Media, Information and Telecommunication (SMIT) of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and the department of Computer Security and Industrial Cryptography (COSIC) of KU Leuven has revealed.
The researchers from the joint probe claim that Facebook tracks computers of users without their explicit consent and even if they are logged out. The report also says that FB tracks even those users who have not at all registered for Facebook and who opted out of the FB tracking feature in Europe.
Under European Union laws all websites have to take users explicit permission before placing any kind of tracking cookies on their browsers and computer. The study found out that Facebook was bypassing this requirement by using a workaround. Its social plugins such as the ‘Like’ button which are present on approximately 13 million websites act as tracking cookies placing them these websites.
Facebook places tracking cookies on users’ computers if they visit any page on the facebook.com domain, including fan pages or other pages that do not require a Facebook account to visit. When a user visits a third-party site that has any Facebook social plug-in placed on it, it detects and sends the tracking cookies back to Facebook. The study reveals that the tracking cookies are used even if the user does not interact with the Like button, Facebook Login or other extensions of the social media site.
Facebook flately disagrees with the above report and has Facebook spokesperson issued the following statement :
This report contains factual inaccuracies. The authors have never contacted us, nor sought to clarify any assumptions upon which their report is based. Neither did they invite our comment on the report before making it public. We have explained in detail the inaccuracies in the earlier draft report (after it was published) directly to the Belgian DPA, who we understand commissioned it, and have offered to meet with them to explain why it is incorrect, but they have declined to meet or engage with us. However, we remain willing to engage with them and hope they will be prepared to update their work in due course.
It remains to be seen whether the European Union holds this report as valid and acts against FB. European Union has already warned users to opt out of Facebook if they want to preserve their privacy.