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Facebook & Twitter Are Tracking You

Submitted by on May 23, 2011 – 10:48 am2 Comments
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It’s the end of the world as we know it! No, the much-rumored “rapture” didn’t take on Saturday and the world didn’t come to an end like a bunch of people were expecting it to. But last week, we did find out that our world is changing—and changing quickly—with regards to the way that we associate with the rest of the world online.

In particular, the Wall Street Journal did a piece late last week that’s sure to have more than a few people up in arms about a clear violation of personal privacy. They found out that companies like Facebook and Twitter are likely monitoring every mouse click that millions of users take these days—and they’re doing it in a way that is just about impossible for you to stop.

Basically, every time you’re signed into either of the social networking sites and you visit a site that features a widget that allows you to “Like” or “Tweet” a story, you are being tracked. In fact, you don’t even need to actually click on the widget to enable the tracking. Simply by visiting a site that has the widget, you are sending information about your Web-surfing habits back to Facebook and Twitter, who can seemingly then use this information to help themselves profit. And millions of Web pages feature the widgets at this time so you’re basically being tracked by the companies almost every second that you’re on the computer.

So, how does that make you feel? A lot of people are upset about it right now. And they’re mainly upset because Facebook and Twitter are doing all of this tracking without their consent. They’re gathering information about individual users and, while in reality this info is probably only being used for advertising purposes, it’s a tough pill for a lot of people to swallow when you tell them that a company is somehow manipulating their actions in order to benefit themselves. And rightfully so.

I personally don’t have a huge problem with the tracking. I know, I know. It’s a horrible thing to have my privacy violated! But to tell you the truth, I am the one who signed up for Facebook in the first place. I am the one who signed up for Twitter in the first place. I regularly use Google, another site that tracks users and uses the information to generate advertisements. And if I don’t like being tracked? Well, I could just as easily stop using the social networking sites—which are, by the way, free to use!—and be done with all the tracking.

But at the same time, I realize that there are people who feel uncomfortable being tracked. So, why doesn’t Facebook and Twitter simply offer people an option to opt out of being tracked?

The practice of companies “tracking” their customers online isn’t new—and it probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon—but social-networking companies and other companies who use it need to make the public more aware. Privacy is one of the few things people still hold near and dear to their hearts. And if that gets taken away—and taken away unknowingly at that—it’s going to turn a lot of people into angry consumers.

It’s the end of the world as we know it. We need to make changes and educate ourselves to make sure we’re ready for it.

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