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Why you should never log in with your Facebook account just to read news

Monday, 20 August 2012 facebook privacy

I’ve noticed a growing trend when you click an external link on Facebook from a desktop computer: you’re asked to log in. While this might seem like it’s only a minor inconvenience, in the long run this could be extremely dangerous.

If you’ve used Facebook in the past year, you’ve almost certainly seen something like this after clicking a particularly outrageous looking “Trending Article”:

Argl! No!

The old curmudgeon that I am, I swear every time I see one of these because I’m never ever going to click the Okay button. I hope you don’t either.

If you do, you’re what’s wrong with kids these days Facebook

The dialogue’s description would have you believe you’re joining some hip social experiment --and I suppose you are-- but I have some spoilers for you: precisely two parties gain from you logging in like this and you’re neither one of them.

  1. The newspaper gets a ton of “basic” information about you from Facebook. Now they know roughly who you are, what you like, what your friends are like (and their public information). It’s not rocket science to drop you into a very precise demographic.

    They can also now track you around their site with complete immunity from all the fancy new laws to help stop websites tracking you against your will. It’s actually worse than that because this is highly personalised tracking. All in all, they can now advertise at you with at least 1000% increased efficiency. And they can post on your wall to advertise to your friends.

  2. Facebook gets all this and more. They already know your pets’ names, shoe size, school, best friends, holiday locations, how often you get drunk, and everything else that happens to you.

    Now when you’re logged into a Trending Article partner, what you read is being broadcast to Facebook. Now Facebook has political information about its users, and the power to direct them to new political media. They might not own you but they can certainly make sure you’re exposed to certain articles.

I see my personal information being tossed back and forth but where in this privacy-destroying-reach-around do I get something back?

You get to read the article, that’s it.
You’re trading the keys to your soul for something that is freely available.
You don’t have to log in to view the content directly through their website.
You don’t have to log in if you click the link from the Facebook app on your phone.

So why would you let them have all that information just because you’re on a real computer? Just go to the newspapers website and search for the title. You get to read it without the colonoscopy.

The same applies to a vast number of sites where you have the option to “Connect with Facebook”. Unless it’s something I trust, I’m not handing over my papers just to log in. If you’re still not sure, consider the following questions:

Sometimes I really miss the old, disjointed internet.

P.S. If you read this and it made any impression, you can nuke the relationships your Facebook account has with publishers using Facebook’s Application Settings screen.

P.P.S Even if you want the media to know everything about you, it’s worth checking that page to make sure there aren’t any dodgy applications in there.