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Facebook’s latest Privacy Violations, History Sniffing and Web Journalism.

The latest discovery in Facebook Privacy Violations is the Facebook ‘like’ button seen on websites. Over at Thinq.co.uk is this article:

Facebook’s ‘Like This’ button is tracking you Whether you click it or not
This is ‘drive by’ technology,which only requires you to view the page with the button, and the privacy violation begins. You do not have to click on the button or have a Facebook account. Drive by is a technique that virus writers and malware authors use to infect your machine by just visiting their pages.

The argument that this is not malware, but merely marketing data, is bullshit in my view. History tracking is no different than keystroke logging, or user name password theft. The idea that they should be happy just visiting their sites instead of thieving from us like an electronic TSA strip search, genital grab shows how far the web has been corrupted by marketeers. The standard disclaimer by websites that they are pure as the driven snow, and it is those third party sites who pay them money are to blame is also bullshit, because this is not passive information, but aggressive theft and privacy violation. Because at the end of the day, this information’s value is not to enrich your experience on the web, but is all about spending the least amount of money to sell you shit you can probably do without.

Arnold Roosendaal, a Dutch university researcher, is the author of the paper that this article is based on and is available here. [PDF]
If you have a Facebook account, this gets added to your hidden profile on their servers, regardless of being logged in or not. Even if you do not have a Facebook account, you are tracked. Yet another reason not to have a Facebook account.

Next up is this gem from Forbes.
History Sniffing: How YouPorn Checks What Other Porn Sites You’ve Visited and Ad Networks Test The Quality of Their Data
This article outlines how websites and the companies behind them use Javascript to sniff your browser history to determine where you have been before. YouPorn , described as a “a YouTube for porn enthusiasts” uses a javascript to hijack your browser history to see where else you have been in the porn universe. They use encryption to try to hide this behaviour.
Other sites use similar scripts to do the same thing. Here is the research paper that demonstrates this.
“An Empirical Study of Privacy-Violating Information Flows in JavaScript Web Applications.” [PDF]

This is not limited to rogue sites running home brewed scripts, but some of the major destinations on the web.
In the case of Interclick, it is a business tailored to tracking you. When asked by Kashmir Hill, the author of the forbes piece, their reply was:

“Interclick purchases anonymous audience data from several vendors for the purpose of targeting advertising campaigns. Consequently, it has a number of quality control measures in place to understand the quality and effectiveness of this data. The code observed in the paper was a quality measure being tested,”
Source Forbes.com History Sniffing: How YouPorn Checks What Other Porn Sites You’ve Visited and Ad Networks Test The Quality of Their Data

I had to laugh reading that. First they get caught, then they admit that they don’t trust what they paid for, and then they run their scripts without telling folks. Here is company using these privacy violating scripts to ‘check’ the data that they are buying from companies that are selling this data out the back door while posting signs on their front doors saying that they do not sell this data.
No honor among thieves, indeed!

JavaScript, the darling of the AJAX whizz band school of web design, utility is being overshadowed by its use as a data mining and privacy violating tool.

The one thing that both of these articles have in common, is links to source material used to write these stories. This is the new face of journalism web style.