What’s there not to “Like”

My Facebook friends could categorize me as a lurker.  I login to Facebook but rarely post. In an effort to lose my lurker status, I will sometimes hit the Facebook “Like” button.  By clicking on the “Like” button, I add a link to an interesting article or a funny video on to my Facebook page. For me, the button is an easy way of giving a little Facebook nod.

Apparently, I am not the only one who likes buttons.  According to Techcrunch, the rumor is Facebook plans on launching more buttons.  The rumored buttons are  “Read”, “Listened” and “Watched”.  Now, I will be able to let my friends know the articles I read, the music I listened to and the TV programs I watched.  But if I am not careful, I may be letting more than my friends know what I am interested in.

researcher at Tilburg University discovered the Facebook “Like” button can be used to track and trace web users.  Clicking the button not only places a link to the item on your Facebook page, it places a cookie on your computer.  Now, if you visit any web page with a “Like” button on it , Facebook knows about it.  If the website includes Facebook Connect, this tracking can occur even if you did not use the button. 

The Wall Street Journal investigated other websites and their buttons.  They found Facebook, Twitter and Google all collected information even if the user did not click on one of their buttons.  As long as the user logged into Facebook or Twitter once in the past month, data was collected. The tracking stopped only when they explicitly logged out of their Facebook or Twitter accounts not just closed their browser or turned off their computers.

A small state in Germany is trying to ban the Facebook “Like” Button.   The Data Protection Commissioner for the state believes that the use of Facebook fan pages and the “like” button leads to illegal profiling of individuals.  Facebook claims it does not use the information in any way to create a profile of the user.

Here in the U.S., the Facebook “Like” button is the focus of several lawsuits.  A group of California Internet users is suing Facebook for using its “Like” button to track their online activity.  Parents are suing over the use of their children’s image in social ads.  When kids click on the “Like” button, their image and name could appear in Facebook Ads.  These lawsuits argue Facebook is violating state laws by using a kid’s image and name in social ads without parental consent.

According to Facebook, the average users clicks on the “Like” button 9 times a month.  Kids on social networks are most likely using these buttons.  They can take control of their information by:

  •  LOGGING OUT.  To minimize potential tracking, kids should Logout.  It is convenient to Login to a social network and leave it open while searching the web.   But letting these networks run in the background may allow companies to collect additional data.  Ultimately, nothing prevents companies from tying this data to a profile.
  • CHECKING SETTINGS.  When using the Facebook “Like” button, kids are agreeing to have their “like” appear on their Wall, in their friends Newsfeed, on the Page they connected to, in advertisements about that Page, or in social plugins next to the content “liked”.  If kids do not wish to see their image splashed across the web, they need to change their settings.  Go to Account Settings and choose Facebook ads on the right side.  Here kids can limit who sees their information on third-party ads and social ads.