Facebook Is Tracking You! Here’s How to Stop It
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Who is tracking your movements online? You’d assume your ISP, and the government. How about Google? That’s a given. But what about social media sites, like Facebook? Well, they’re in on the act too, and they’re less than forthcoming with transparency.

In fact, in Europe, Facebook has received repeated warnings about user tracking. A Belgian court even threatened them with a €250,000 daily fine until they changed their tracking practices.

Got your interest? Good. Here’s how you stop Facebook tracking you around the internet.

How Does Facebook Track You?

We’ve become a society intent on sharing… everything. How many times do you scroll through your Facebook feed and sigh at the information people are spewing forth? It goes further than that.

The millions of Facebook “Like” and “Share” buttons added to seemingly every website funnel web browsing data into the Facebook advertising algorithm. Consequently, the types of sites you visit away from Facebook will fine-tune the ads shown to you inside the social media site, as well as its other services.

facebook geeky pages likes

Furthermore, each site with a Facebook button places an individual cookie (what’s a cookie What's A Cookie & What Does It Have To Do With My Privacy? [MakeUseOf Explains] What's A Cookie & What Does It Have To Do With My Privacy? [MakeUseOf Explains] Most people know that there are cookies scattered all over the Internet, ready and willing to be eaten up by whoever can find them first. Wait, what? That can’t be right. Yes, there are cookies... Read More ? Wait… what’s a supercookie What Are Supercookies, and Why Are They Dangerous? What Are Supercookies, and Why Are They Dangerous? Verizon has been fined for tracking customers with a unique identifier header (UIDH), also known as a "supercookie." But what is a supercookie? And why is it worse than a regular cookie? Read More ?!) on your computer. Along with the “normal” tracking information, this file can contain your individual Facebook id number. And even if you’re signed out of Facebook, the tracking id contained in the cookie will inform the mothership of your internet whereabouts.

Facebook has long tentacles. It also owns a number of other popular services. Remember when Facebook bought WhatsApp? How about when it bought Instagram? Users of those services may feel like they’re posting data in a separate social bubble, but it all feeds back into the same Facebook ad algorithm. WhatsApp users can actually turn data sharing off 4 Security Threats WhatsApp Users Need To Know About 4 Security Threats WhatsApp Users Need To Know About WhatsApp has become the biggest name in messaging apps, with many scammers trying to take advantage of the app's users. You'll be surprised at the number of threats to your WhatsApp safety. Read More . Instagram users aren’t so lucky.

Here’s What Facebook Presumes to Know

Facebook does, at least, let you see what it presumes to know about you. You can see your Facebook Ad Preferences right here. Some of mine are below.

facebook privacy ad settings

The joke’s on them: I’ve never rated Call of Duty, but I do like music. Sweeping generalization, right there. Regardless of what they know about me (a healthy amount it’s wrong), it perfectly illustrates the advertising profile being built to serve you better ads.

But I Don’t Have an Account!

Yeah… that doesn’t matter. One of the reasons Facebook advertising is well targeted is the immense amount of websites feeding data into the algorithm. And that includes individuals using sites with a “Like” and “Share” button.

When you visit one of these sites, regardless of your Facebook user status, Facebook receive an IP address, location, browser details, and more.

And the best bit of all? Facebook tracking cookies never expire.

Why Is Facebook Tracking Me?

Advertising and money. They go hand in hand. Internet users are by now used to tracking technology. We’re tracked around the internet by numerous advertising companies, all making use of magical cookies.

In addition, your data, regardless of user status, helps to increase their actionable advertising target data. It is win-win for Facebook. Concise data that their business account holders can make better use of.

Tracking and advertising are (unfortunately) central to the modern internet. Have you ever tried using NoScript or PrivacyBadger (more on these in moment)? Many sites literally break if the numerous tracking scrips cannot run.

How Do I Stop Facebook Tracking Me?

Okay, down to business. How do you actually stop Facebook tracking your movements around the internet? There are several great solutions and, better yet, many of them will stop other advertisers tracking you too.

Script Blocking

Some websites rely on scripts. In this case, the script is a small piece of code that calls advertising (and other) trackers to your presence on a page. It is possible to block these scripts from running, on any web page you visit, using a browser extension.

ublock origin privacy settings

  • NoScript is highly recommended, but can be a steep learning curve. Your internet that works everywhere might suddenly be completely broken because of the blocked scripts. So while your privacy will be excellent, you might struggle to book flights, or even watch a video without tweaking your script settings. In that sense, it is highly customizable.
  • PrivacyBadger is one of the next best things to NoScript. Where NoScript is for techies (but worth learning, I might add), you could install PrivacyBadger on your Grandma’s computer, knowing she’ll be protected and able to book flights. PrivacyBadger uses an easy-to-manage system of colored sliders. Green means okay, Yellow means third-party tracking but necessary for a functioning web, Red means content and scripts have been disabled. PrivacyBadger is available for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

Different Browser

If you’re using Chrome, you’re being tracked. It isn’t “just a Google” thing: all major browsers feature some form of tracking. But there are several lesser-known browser alternatives that focus exclusively on your privacy 4 Anonymous Web Browsers That Are Completely Private 4 Anonymous Web Browsers That Are Completely Private A good way to protect your information on the web is to surf anonymously. Google Chrome’s Incognito mode can help to an extent, but you should also look at the following web browsers. Read More .

Advertising Opt-Outs and Cookies

Facebook users can control their cookies from this page. It also details exactly how Facebook uses cookies. Non-Facebook users also have some options (and, really, Facebook users can do this too).

Users can opt out of behavioral advertising en masse using a regional tool.

It can take a few tries to get all the advertisers to accept your opt-out request. The E.U. site is especially slow!

opt out of behavioral advertising

Furthermore, users should also disable third-party cookies in their browsers via the Settings menu. This will stop third-party advertisers and behavioral tracking cookies making their way onto your system to begin with. There are also some excellent extensions that can help you take of this too:

  • Self-Destructing Cookies has been a privacy mainstay for years now. It gets rid of a websites cookies and LocalStorage as soon as you close a tab. Useful and important cookies can be easily whitelisted. Self-Destructing Cookies is available for Firefox.
  • Cookie AutoDelete performs the same set of tasks for Chrome users.

Is It Really Necessary?

I think that very much depends on who you ask.

I would contend that stopping at least some of the online tracking is a good thing. And once you install a few extensions that illustrate just how many individual entities are following you around the internet, you might go further in your efforts avoiding internet surveillance Avoiding Internet Surveillance: The Complete Guide Avoiding Internet Surveillance: The Complete Guide Internet surveillance continues to be a hot topic so we've produced this comprehensive resource on why it's such a big deal, who's behind it, whether you can completely avoid it, and more. Read More . Furthermore, there is confusion surrounding some publicized services, such as Do Not Track Does "Do Not Track" Protect Your Privacy? Does "Do Not Track" Protect Your Privacy? Does enabling "Do Not Track" in your browser really protect your privacy? Do websites respect your wishes, or does it simply provide a false sense of security? Let's find out... Read More .

The lines are easily blurred too.

Serial Facebook-posters reveal phenomenal amounts of personal data. Even if their privacy settings are restrictive, Facebook can use that data. And even if we’re concerned about what we’re posting, Facebook is incredibly good at drawing from the data, and creating correlations. Security expert, Bruce Schneier, believes “we tend to focus on the data collection because that’s easier to see. I think the real problem are the correlations, which are much harder to see.”

I have a good friend who always says “Just give in to Google” and make their services better. And, he is right… at least in some ways. If we’re going to be advertised at, and if that advertising is helping to keep internet cogs whirring, why not at least see adverts that actually resonate with you? After all, you don’t have to click them. Just open a new tab, and search for the product yourself (all being tracked, of course).

At the end of the day, the options are there. Taking privacy into your own hands isn’t as arduous as some parties make out, but it does require a little research. Hopefully, we’ve pointed you in the right direction.

Do you keep your personal data under lock and key? Or do you proudly live your life across social media? Are you worried that Facebook is tracking too much? If so, how does it differ from Google? Let us know your Facebook privacy tips in the comments below!

Image Credit: By Sabphoto via Shutterstock

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  1. Ardaxo
    November 5, 2017 at 6:50 am

    Great article, I really try to keep my privacy on the internet. Now I am a bit closer to achieving that.
    Thank you

  2. Name
    July 27, 2017 at 3:10 am

    You should be able to kill the "Like" buttons with ad blockers.
    However, your email address is also very important. Try not to use the same email address across multiple services. Gmail supports it, Yahoo Mail supports it, ie

    the following will be delivered to the same mailbox (user@gmail.com), but all the data resellers will not be able to establish the connection
    user+faebook@gmail.com
    user+uber@gmail.com

  3. likefunbutnot
    July 26, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    Facebook Shadow profiles (data stored about non-members who have not agreed to its terms of service) piss the hell out of me. The thing is, Facebook knows who I am because it has gleaned information about me from people who agreed to its terms of service and/or labeled my face in a photo. It can also pick up information from public records, credit reports and anything its business partners tell it about me.
    I genuinely don't want Facebook - or any entity to which I haven't given explicit permission - to keep data about me. I've never visited Facebook myself. Facebook's scripts have never been allowed to run on my personal computers or mobile devices. But it still has shit tons of information about me and there's nothing I can do about it.
    That is wrong and, since I'm an American and not from a country with good privacy laws like Germany, I'm really out of luck.

    • KT
      July 28, 2017 at 5:25 am

      I'm with you 100%. My cousin is a FB fanatic. She puts her entire life on there. When I visit family functions and my pictures end up there, I insist she only uses my nickname. My wife has checked and she honors my request, unfortunately I'm known more by my nickname than my real name because my dumb ass uses KT a lot.

      • Richard
        August 1, 2017 at 6:05 pm

        And now FB has probably correlated your nickname with your real name so that doesn't work either.