You've seen them around the Web: widgets, like little graffiti tags, with the familiar Facebook "thumbs up." Click and you'll "like" a company or artist's Facebook page no matter what site you're on.
But those buttons contain bits of code that let you do more than show your support. They also act as little nodes for Facebook to collect data about what you like, where you go on the Web and how best to advertise to you. Next month, those Facebook like buttons will start collecting data whenever you load one so when you arrive back at Facebook, they have some custom-tailored ads ready for you based on your preferences.
"Most people probably don't even realize that whenever they load a page with a 'like' button on it, Facebook gets a little information on them."
Facebook announced this openly Tuesday on their corporate blog. The post acknowledged that you can now opt out of this type of surveillance if you go digging around in your settings, but it was a smokescreen for the fact the company was stepping up their surveillance measures in the first place.
How it works: The embeddable "like" and "share" buttons contain code that, when loaded, will communicate with your browser and cookies to check browsing data whether you've actually clicked on them or not, a surveillance device that the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been advocating against for years.
"The 'Like' data is especially problematic," Rainey Reitman, the foundation's activism director, told the MIT Technology Review. "Most people probably don't even realize that whenever they load a page with a 'like' button on it, Facebook gets a little information on them."
How to opt out: First go to this link while logged into Facebook. Find the row called "Ads based on my use of websites and apps" and click "Edit."
Click the drop-down menu for "Choose Setting" to turn it off.
And that's it. As Facebook puts it, ads may be "less relevant to you," which doesn't seem like a steep price to pay for Facebook not developing a robust profile of your personality based on Internet-wide surveillance.