In the past year, I realized that every single person I know has a Facebook account now! This only means that Facebook has become an integral part of our daily habits…by the way, it also means that we understand what exactly Facebook is getting from us in return for the free platform to express ourselves and how much of our privacy are we ready to¬† compromise in exchange.

While Facebook and their representatives claim that they are not interested in tracking the usage and activity of their users, their Patent Application with US Government Patent Registry on 22-Sep-2011 gives a different picture.

The link to their patent claim is given below if you are interested in the details:

Facebook Patent For Communicating Information In a Social Networking System about Activities from another domain

Scary, isnt it?

Based on my knowledge about cookies, I spent sometime researching on what exactly happens when we login to Facebook account. It was quite obvious that when I was logged into facebook during any session, all my activity done in the same browser in the other tabs, or in the same tab, were easily available for Facebook to pass back to its servers. The more scary part is that even after you logout from Facebook, the cookies continue to exist and your data in future sessions are also available to be logged and tracked.

Based on the observation and study, here are the recommendations:

RECOMMENDATION #1:Firefox with Private Browsing for sites with login

I use Firefox and choose Start Private Browsing option all the time when I visit any site that I like but do not trust. (Eg. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Ebay). It is the browser of my choice for many years and with the Private Browsing option available in Firefox, I know for a fact that all the cookies, links, pages, etc are cleared out by Firefox when I close my session.

Note: For the sites that I do not like and do not trust, I use NoScript Add-On that comes as a Firefox plugin, which stops all the popups and unapproved redirections to a browser, unapproved downloads to my machine, etc.

RECOMMENDATION #2: Another browser for Sites Without Logins

Many of us have the habit of browsing multiple sites, and do not want to remember the pages we visited, but want them to be available for easily accessing them in the future. I have developed a habit of having a second browser that I use to visit all the new sites where I do not have to login. This helps me visit the sites that I want to see and do not want to lose the links. (Cant bookmark all of them as they will run into 1000s).

RECOMMENDATION #3: Privacy Settings in Facebook

This recommendation is specific to Facebook, while the above two recommendations are applicable across any website. If you login to Facebook, you will notice that Facebook gives an option to set your security to high. (I wish this was there by default, but as we all know this is very similar to the Opt In or Opt Out Behaviour that we have seen in many marketing tricks where people’s interest are given lower priority than the company’s revenue generating methods.)

– Go to Security Settings in Facebook and check ‘Secure Browsing’.

– Go to Facebook Ads tab in Settings and click on ‘Edit Third Party Ad Settings’ and set it to share with no one.

– Repeat the same as above with ‘Edit Social Ad Settings’.

These are some of the things I have done to protect my privacy and believe it will be useful to anyone. If you are aware of any other ways of securing your privacy while online, please feel free to share it with others.