May 19th – In today’s Wall Street Journal Online, Amir Efrati and Geoff Fowler put together an interesting article on what happens when you click on the “Like” and “Tweet” buttons. If you click on the thumbnail picture, you’ll see an enlarged version of the process. Basically, these widgets allow you to share content with your friends, family and peers, but these tools also let their makers collect data about the websites you’ve been visiting.
These widgets are prolific, and we use them as well. They are added to millions of web pages each year, with Facebook’s buttons appearing on a third of the world’s 1,000 most-visited websites, according to the WSJ study. That study went on to say that buttons from Twitter appear on 20% of those sites.
According to Amir Efrati and Geoff Fowler, “the widgets, which were created to make it easy to share content with friends and to help websites attract visitors, are a potentially powerful way to track Internet users. They could link users’ browsing habits to their social-networking profile, which often contains their name.”
The writers went on to say that this means that “Facebook or Twitter know when one of their members reads an article about filing for bankruptcy on MSNBC.com or goes to a blog about depression called Fighting the Darkness, even if the user doesn’t click the “Like” or “Tweet” buttons on those sites.”
In the article, they said that Facebook, Twitter, Google and other widget-makers were on the record as saying that they don’t use browsing data generated by the widgets to track users; and Facebook says it only uses the data for advertising purposes when a user clicks on a widget to share content with friends.
Facebook and Google say they use the information to measure the widgets’ effectiveness and help other websites attract visitors. Twitter says it doesn’t use such browsing data and deletes it “quickly.” However, the article says that a spokesman stated that the company could in theory use the data to “surface better content” for users in the future, the promise of Web 3.0′s personalization component.
This is a great article that I recommend reading. As we start to evolve into the Web 3.0 space, there is a growing concern about privacy on the Internet, as well as privacy on our smartphones. Congress is now looking at 5 privacy-related bills this year according to the article.
Let us know how you feel about this.
Source of article: Wall Street Journal – Technology “’Like’ Button Follows Web Users”
Write to: Amir Efrati at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more (requires WSJ subscription):
Other resources mentioned in the WSJ article:
• The Web’s New Gold Mine: Your Secrets (7/30/10)
• Personal Details Exposed Via Biggest Websites (7/30/10)
• Stalkers Exploit Cellphone GPS (8/3/10)
• Google Agonizes Over Privacy (8/10/10)
• Kids Face Intensive Tracking on Web (9/17/10)
• Facebook in Privacy Breach (10/18/10)
• Your Apps Are Watching You (12/17/10)
• More From the What They Know Series
And relating to Web 3.0 is the video below, which talks about how filter bubbles impact your view of the world: