With more than 26 million users hooked to Facebook’s Rainbow Tool, looks like FB is tracking you
It was a historic moment for civil rights in America when the Supreme Court on Friday legalized gay marriages. To celebrate the decision, Facebook for the first time launched a free tool that allowed users to put a rainbow overlay on top of their profile photo to show their support and solidarity for the LGBT community. The tool was designed by two Facebook interns during an internal hackathon last week.
Prominent people like Russell Simmons, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff changed their profiles.
Over the past three days, 26 million people have super imposed rainbows over their Facebook profile pictures using the free tool provided by the company. The rainbow filter that was launched on Friday continued to gain steam attracting more than half a billion likes and comments all over the world.
The Atlantic had recently posed the question of whether or not the tool was part of an experiment to perhaps allow Facebook to closely track and collect data about user activity to which a Facebook rep responded by saying, “This was not an experiment or test, but rather something that enables people to show their support of the LGBTQ community on Facebook. We aren’t going to use this as a way to target ads and the point of this tool is not to get information about people.”
Having said that, the Facebook spokesperson didn’t refuse that the social network was tracking which users support gay marriage and adding that to the database of personal information the company has on its billion users.
While that was done by users uploading photos themselves, the last time there was a big profile picture protest for gay marriage. A study was published earlier this year titled “The Diffusion of Support in an Online Social Movement.” It was written by Bogdan State who is a Stanford Ph.D. candidate and Lada Adamic, a data scientist at Facebook. There is clear evidence that Facebook is closely keeping a watch on how people use the social network to effect social and political change. If you are the type that is particular about your privacy, then clearly being tracked by Facebook might be worrying.
That does not mean that you should not give your Facebook profile the rainbow treatment, as it is a great way to celebrate a historic event. However, one should not forget that Facebook is watching as always.