Strong opinions, weakly held

Managing my mistrust of Facebook

Like a lot of people, I don’t trust Facebook. A lot of people deal with that by deleting their Facebook accounts, but I don’t want to do that. A lot of friends and family members post their photos to Facebook, so I need an account if I want to see them. It’s also the main way to keep in touch with certain people. That’s Facebook’s hook for the skeptical — they know you like other Facebook users more than you hate Facebook itself.

I have never liked it when you go to a page that’s not a Facebook page and it shows your picture and which friends have liked that page already. That provides no value to me as an end user, but it certainly provides value to Facebook. They track your activity using those buttons whether you click on them or not.

This weekend I learned that when you log out of Facebook, you don’t actually log out of Facebook. They still track wherever you go on the Web. That, for me, was the final straw. I logged out of Facebook and deleted all of my Facebook cookies manually.

From now on, when I want to visit Facebook, I’ll be using the private browser setting in whatever browser I’m using. For Google Chrome, that’s Incognito mode. For Firefox, you use Private Browsing. Safari supports Private Browsing as well. It seems like putting Facebook in jail is the only way to keep it from tracking you everywhere you go on the Web, so that’s what I’m going to do.

Update: Facebook has addressed the logout issue. You can decide whether it has been fixed to your satisfaction.


  1. This post got me thinking that Fluid for Mac (http://fluidapp.com/) may be a good way to deal with this. Fluid can be used to create a standalone Mac app for a given web site. The paid version allows you to have the app store its cookies separately from the main browser, so you shouldn’t be tracked during any other browsing session. Fluid apps render using Safari.

    (I’m not associated with Fluid; just a fan.)

  2. See also the Disconnect extension for Chrome which does this kind of thing behind the scenes – https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/jeoacafpbcihiomhlakheieifhpjdfeo

  3. This is one area where I like mobile apps: for me, Facebook only exists on my iPhone where it’s nicely sandboxed.

  4. At what point would you simply delete your account?

    It seems like expecting to get scammed so much that you’re taking countermeasures is a good sign that it’s time to move on.

  5. Zane: I wouldn’t disagree with that conclusion but I do accept that it’s useful for contacting a non-trivial percentage of people who are otherwise inactive online. I just don’t want that bargain to spill out.

  6. I like seeing pictures of my nieces and nephews who live far away, so I stick with Facebook in spite of the fact that it annoys me.

  7. Another option is to use a well-tuned ad-blocker, so that you never make third-party HTTP requests to cross-site profilers in the first place.

    For instance, in this page I never loaded the calls to Twitter and Google that the page wishes to make. Don’t have to worry about cookies or logging-out then.

    First person I saw discussing this topic was Richard M. Smith, back when DoubleClick started to gain wide footprint on the world’s webpages back in the late 90s: https://w2.eff.org/Privacy/Marketing/web_bug.html

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