Facebook: We do track logged-out users, but trust us

In comments to the Wall Street Journal, a Facebook engineer says data from logged out users is collected but soon deleted.

There are those for whom Facebook is a way of life.

They commit themselves to it because it's automatic and just so self-empowering.

Many would not have been concerned when, this weekend, a hacker called Nik Cubrilovic offered the interesting information that Facebook seemed to be sucking in data from even those users who have actually logged out.

Indeed, Cubrilovic claimed that even if you log out, Facebook "still knows and can track every page you visit," as its cookies burrow away in your laptop's entrails, consumed by the compulsion to share.

You might think Facebook immediately issued denials at this seemingly pickpocketish process. You might think that flies will only feast on foie gras.

For the company confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that, yes, indeed, Cubrilovic's information was accurate.

But, don't worry, Facebook reportedly said, trust us.

Trust me. I like little dogs. Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It's true that the minute you view a "Like" button--any "Like" button--Facebook's cookies will send data back to Social Networking Central.

But, as Arturo Bejar, a Facebook director of engineering, told the Journal: "The onus is on us is to take all the data and scrub it."

The people at Facebook are very, very busy people. I've seen little videos showing how hard they work, as they skateboard up and down their offices. How can we possibly be sure that they are scrubbing our data? How can we possibly be sure that they don't, just sometimes, take a little peek? This surely matters to us--or at least those of us who still believe in the overarching power of truth, love, and honesty.

Behar insisted: "What really matters is what we say as a company and back it up."

I am sure that every time someone has tried to offer you life insurance, auto insurance, a mutual fund, or a piece of cheese 10 days past its sell-by date, you have heard them say "trust me" and gone right along.

I am equally sure that you believe the Facebook spokesperson who told the Journal that this data is never used to target ads. Just as I am sure you believe Behar that this monster cookie activity merely exists in order to keep spam and phishing attacks away and to make it easier for you to log in to Facebook without oodles of authentication.

It's just that, well, many people trusted Google until the company confessed to a tiny whoopsie when it admitted that its Street View cars had accidentally recorded private Wi-Fi data .

And many people trusted Facebook until, oh, where would you "Like" me to start?

Trust us, say the engineers. But some real human beings wonder: "What are they actually engineering?"

 

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