Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Websites that report your browsing to Facebook

There are many things I like about the Facebook app but recording my browsing history via Off Facebook Activity isn't one of them. I know that Google and Microsoft also have the ability to collect my browsing history but I assume they do it directly via their browsers (Edge, Chrome) and I can easily disable that by using Firefox or logging out when using their browser. With Facebook I don't have that option. I can and do opt-out but most users won't.

Facebook doesn't sell your data, data brokers do that. That is worthy of attention but off topic here.

Facebook has collected call logs in the past. It still collects contacts, as do many other apps. This rant is only about the collection of browsing history. I think it is creepy. I hope one day that it becomes illegal. All of this data (call logs, address book, browsing history) is high-risk as in there are external parties (lawyers, insurance companies, government agencies) that would love to access that data.

I get why websites send data back to Facebook (FB). It helps them buy ads targeting FB users who visited their website. I get why FB does this. It helps them sell targeted ads. Neither of these benefit the user.

I don't want websites for hospitals and disease advocacy to report visits to FB. But some do. I hope the law changes to prevent this but GDPR and CCPA have not stopped it.

Who does this?

The short answer is many but not all web sites. I did an experiment and visited web sites that are relevant to me to see who reported my visits to FB. I was happy to learn that some web sites did not.

Some results are ironic.

Some results are ironic, but less than above. Progressive advocacy websites that report my visits to FB include actblue.com, emilyslist.orgcitizensforethics.orgmotherjones.com, hrw.org, amnesty.org, greenpeace.org, democrats.org, prochoiceamerica.org, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and thinkprogress.org. I am happy, but not surprised, to learn that eff.org doesn't report visits to FB.

Some results made me sad. Web sites that provide health care services should not report my visits to FB. I prefer that disease advocacy web sites not report visits. The sites listed here are relevant to me. I have visited in the past to make donations and because I was a caregiver for someone with cancer. All of them reported my visits to FB:
I won't list them here but many addiction recovery businesses report visits to FB and so do advocacy web sites for other diseases.


  1. Does blogspot?
    Nice read. It makes me want to look into this more.

    1. I didn't research the extent to which Google collects this data. For example, if I browse but am not logged into Google on the browser can they ID me? I did like the support Google has for limiting retention for such data.