Doug Antkowiak // Mar 29 2012
A post in the Subreddit r/Facebook on Wednesday claims to show you how to identify people you don’t know who view your profile. It raises a serious question:
Is Facebook recording every move you make on the social network?
How would you feel if you knew if Facebook recorded your name, location, action and time of day anytime you VISITED another page or profile? We’re not even talking about interactions like clicks, comments or shares. Just page visits with no interactions. Keep in mind that people freak out at Google for leaving a cookie on their browser to anonymously track visited sites. Does it give you the creeps that Facebook can match all your internet habits to a name, face and location?
The Reddit post mentioned above does show some evidence that this is happening and here’s a walk through to see it:
From your profile page, click Inspect element. In Firefox, use the Firebug plugin. In Chrome, right-click and inspect element.
In Chrome this is obvious, but in Firefox, the tab is called “Net.” Next, click on the XHR tab.
On a PC, hard-refresh is Shift+Ctrl+R. On Mac, it’s Control+Command+F5. Next, look for the file bootstrap.php, there should be two files. The first will list all the Facebook pages you interact with and the second will tell you all the Facebook profiles you have interacted with and the profiles that have interacted with you.
Some people in the office didn’t find any results right away. As a workaround, visit a Facebook page or profile that hasn’t upgraded to timeline, refresh your browser and try the whole process again.
In the response tab, you’ll see profiles listed in order of most recent interactions. You’ll recognize a lot of family and friends, but trust me; it gets pretty interesting when you find someone you don’t recognize.
Here’s an example of what we found:
If you need more help, we’re hosting this Facebook Personal Bootstrap File Viewer, which inserts profile pictures next to the results.
Here’s a snapshot of who has influenced my profile lately:
We don’t know for sure, but our best guess is that Facebook uses this information for its personalized Facebook search function. If you search for a profile or page that you’ve visited in the past, that profile or page will most likely be the top result.
We also found that Facebook associates “tokens” with the first names of profile owners. For example, someone named “Josh” will also have the token “Joshua.” This is one of the reasons why when you use Facebook search for someone named “Robert” and you get results for people named “Bob.”
Luckily, all of these results remain personalized information. For instance, I can’t view any of this data for another person’s profile. And as far as we know, Facebook brand pages can’t access this data… yet.
But with NSA data centers going up in the Utah desert, the implications for this kind of data, stored in direct connection to your identity, are a little spooky.
Could someone use this information to, say, pull a record of every person who has visited a page related to the Koran? Or who made a negative remark about a past or current President? Liked a page opposing/supporting a war?
How much is TOO MUCH information?