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New Research Reveals How Facebook Tracks Non-Users On Third Party Sites

Pretty much every single person that uses Facebook these days is well aware of the fact that their activities on the platform will be tracked because of the fact that this is the sort of thing that could potentially end up allowing marketers and brands to implement targeted ad campaigns. Facebook clearly states that they don’t track users outside of their own platform, but this is something that is quickly being disproven due to reports that are being released about the site.

With all of that having been said and now out of the way, it is important to note that CESifo has just released a report that talks about how Facebook generates shadow profiles for all of its users. These shadow profiles are created by tracking users on third party sites, and that’s mostly done by Facebook strategically placing engagement buttons across these sites that allows the platform to take note of the various activities that users end up performing regardless of whether or not these actions occur on the platform itself.

The thing to note about these engagement buttons, which include things like Like and Share buttons that enable users to interact with content and share their opinions on Facebook, is that users don’t even have to click on them to get tracked. Rather, any site that a user visits that has these engagement buttons will be able to track users and this is data that Facebook can use to turn itself into a much more effective marketing platform for anyone that is interested in using it in that manner.

The CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, was actually asked some pretty pointed questions about Facebook’s creation of shadow profiles by various government entities back in 2018. These included interrogations in both US Congress as well as European Parliament, and his answers to these questions were that he was not aware of the creation of shadow profiles nor did he give any indication that he was aware of how such profiles could be generated in the first place with all things having been considered and taken into account.

While Zuckerberg might be unwilling to admit what his platform is up to, the researchers at CESifo have found evidence to the contrary. The results of their analysis revealed that Facebook has engagement buttons present in around 52% of all websites that are out there right now. These websites account for a total of 40% of the total browsing time that the average user might spend online, which means that the platform is able to detect a number of things that users would end up doing while they are visiting various websites on the internet.

What all of this essentially means is that even people that don’t use Facebook for a wide range of reasons might end up having their activities tracked by the platform whenever they visit a site that incorporates its engagement buttons. Even sites that are relatively privacy sensitive tend to give Facebook a large amount of user data, although sites that are directly competing with Facebook would likely be a lot less willing to hand over this information because it would get in the way of their own success.

Facebook can track non-users on around 44% of the websites that they tend to visit which seems to indicate that no one is truly safe from the platform and its tendency to harvest user data en masse. There is still a lot of research that needs to be done before people can safely say that they know the fullest extent of Facebook’s shadow profile policy, but whatever the case may be it has become more or less certain that this is an activity that the social media juggernaut is undoubtedly taking part in regardless of their denial.


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