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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Facebook, Amazon, Grocery Stores and the loss of privacy and the right to keep your own preferences private....

Employers, politicians, neighbors and "wacko" are finding it easier than ever to find out all sorts of things that you may think are not their business.
And you are giving them the right to do so.
Discrimination based on things you wrote or bought years ago are already a reality, as are bias and prejudices based on the 'data' version of you.
Facebook is at the forefront of gathering data to customize ads and services to meet "your needs," and collecting and "selling" data to make it easier for others to do the same.
In the near future your television ads, ads in magazines, ads on line, offers you receive in the mail, and even discounts and credits where you shop will be based on a data network gathering everything they can about you and about your politics, beliefs, consumer habits and other demographic data. 
Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime do much the same with their tracking of data, which is now available to Facebook and other sources.
Facebook gathers data from “Like” buttons even after users have logged out, saying that the collection is part of a system to prevent improper logins. Yet they now admit this software data collection is also being used in advertising, the selling of data about you and the ability of outside parties to understand your likes, wants, beliefs and needs.
The practice is raising questions about the privacy implications of Facebook’s vast presence on the Web.
Now Facebook has gone into partnerships with research films, sharing your data in order to gain data from you customer cards uses at grocery stores and in retain, some select charge and bank card data, subscriptions you may have, DMV and other sources.
When you sign the agreement to use the service, cards or other customer service tools, you are signing away your privacy in favor of the convenience of a data collection society.
“Even if you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit,” Cubrilovic wrote in a blog post about the issue. “The only solution is to delete every Facebook cookie in your browser, or to use a separate browser for Facebook interactions.”
Here’s how the Facebook user data collection works: When you log in to Facebook or visit without logging in, the site places small files called “cookies” on your computer. Some of these cookies remain on your computer even after you log out, and then whenever you visit a site that connects to Facebook – such as those with a “Like” button – information from those cookies is sent back to Facebook, providing a record of where you’ve been on the Web.
Facebook acknowledges that it gets that data but says it deletes it right away is either not logged or is used for security purposes or for aggregate statistics. The company says the data is sent because of the way the “Like” button system is set up; any cookies that are associated with will automatically get sent when you view a “Like” button.
“The onus is on us is to take all the data and scrub it,” said Arturo Bejar, a Facebook director of engineering. “What really matters is what we say as a company and back it up.”
In a statement, a Facebook spokesman said “no information we receive when you see a social plugin is used to target ads.”
Bejar said Facebook is looking at ways to avoid sending the data altogether but that it will “take a while.”
So why does Facebook keep cookies after you log out in the first place? Bejar said that it’s to prevent spam and phishing attacks and to help keep users from having to go through extra authentication steps every time they log in.
When a user logs in to Facebook from a new computer, the site will often make them take steps to prove that they are who they say they are, rather than someone attempting to log into an account improperly. Cookies allow Facebook to skip those steps when people are logging in from a computer they’ve used before, Bejar said.
But Facebook has been under fire lately over privacy, and the fact that Facebook is getting data at all after people have logged out is raising concerns. “This is not what ‘logout’ is supposed to mean,” Cubrilovic wrote.
This is not the first time people have questioned how much information Facebook gets from “Like” buttons.
In May, the Journal’s Amir Efrati wrote that Facebook would continue to collect browsing data even if users closed their browser or turned off their computers, until they explicitly logged out of Facebook. The current findings, which your Digits blogger confirmed on her computer, indicate that the collection continues even after users explicitly log out.
And earlier this year, Facebook discontinued the practice of obtaining browsing data about Internet users who had never visited, after it was disclosed by Dutch researcher Arnold Roosendaal.
CLARIFICATION: Facebook says some of the cookies identified by Cubrilovic are not logged by the system. However, one cookie is stored and is used to detect suspicious logins, the company says. That cookie is deleted after 90 days. An earlier version of this article incorrectly indicated that all the cookies Cubrilovic identified were not kept when users were logged out.

Facebook's new data combo platter

A Facebook employee holds a phone that is running the new 'Home' program during an event at Facebook headquarters during an event at Facebook headquarters on April 4, 2013 in Menlo Park, Calif.
Facebook is rolling out a new tool for advertisers that could make it easier for them to target consumers, and easier for Facebook to make another buck off of us. Until now, the social network has relied mainly on data it collects from users' Facebook pages. Now, it is partnering with large data companies that track consumer behavior on and offline, to create more complete profiles for advertisers.
Data marketers, such as Acxiom and Datalogix, collect information about what you buy online and which websites you visit. They also keep track of what you buy offline by mining data from credit cards and rewards cards. By partnering with the data firms, Facebook will know more than ever about its users.
"We think about Facebook as being a database of affinity," says Fatemeh Khatibloo, a senior analyst at Forrester Research.
In other words, a giant trove of peoples' likes. But, says Khatibloo, these other firms "have data about actual transactional behavior" -- what people actually buy.
Consider, says Khatibloo, a grocery-store rewards card. While Facebook might know from your page that you "like" a particular brand of cola, the data marketing companies know whether or not you're actually buying it -- and how often. Facebook can use that combination of data to lure advertisers. Privacy advocates say the data mingling is troubling.
"What's disturbing about what happened today is that all of these data companies are all working together," says Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "So today consumers face this unknown, evergrowing complex of data sources merging bits of information about who they are -- that's now used in real time without having any ability to control, influence or stop it."
Facebook notes that they are not offering up information on individuals, only on large groups of people.
Sources include Marketplace, National Public Radio, American Public Radio, Public Radio International, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and Wired Magazine.

First published April 10, 2013

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