Facebook is tracking you. Even if you don’t have a Facebook account, or you religiously use incognito mode, Mark Zuckerberg’s monster almost certainly has your data meticulously catalogued and stored away somewhere. So long as you’ve visited one of the over 8 million websites with a Facebook like button or tracking pixel embedded, the company has you (and it probably won’t be letting go anytime soon).
Facebook's Head of Public Policy, Rebecca Stimson, said as much in a May 14 letter to U.K. Parliament, writing:"Between 9 April and 16 April 2018, the Facebook Like button appeared on 8.4M websites, the Share button appeared on 931K websites, and there were 2.2M Facebook Pixels installed on websites. We do not know the total number of websites in the world in order to express this as a percentage." Meaning, if you’ve so much as glanced any one of those eight to 11 million websites, you’ve been logged by Facebook (including, ahem, this one).
Tracking services such as these are the key to Facebook’s business model. Whenever you visit one of the millions of sites or apps that employs these Facebook tracking methods, your device will automatically send information to Facebook’s servers identifying it as a visitor of that particular page. Most websites or apps also choose to share additional data about user activity with Facebook (like the fact that you put that pair of shoes in your cart, or that you were browsing for sunglasses), which is then added to your file and used to serve you ads.
Facebook isn’t alone in this practice, but that doesn’t exactly make it feel less invasive. Even Facebook’s own explanation for it all rings a little false:
[M]any companies offer these types of services and, like Facebook, theya lso get information from the apps and sites that use them...Parliament's website www.parliament.uk collects and shares browser and cookie information with six different companies- Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Hotjar, Pingdom and Facebook- so when a person visits Parliament's website, it sends information about their visit to each one of those third parties. Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn all have similar Like and Share buttons to help people share things on their services. Google has a popular analytics service. And Amazon, Google and Twitter all offer login features. These companies — and many others — also offer advertising services. In fact, most websites and apps send the same information to multiple companies each time you visit them.
Sure, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn may use some of the same tools, but is it even remotely comparable? Their trackers aren’t embedded in over eight million sites across the web; their user bases aren’t two billion strong; and they sure as hell haven’t accidentally threatened the integrity of elections around the world. Once you screw things up this royally, things become a bit different — a fact that everyone (outside of the Facebook bubble, of course) seems to understand.