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Belgium Tells Facebook: Quit Tracking Us...Or Pay Up



Makes one proud to be Belgian!


To me, this article is akin to reporting that a serial rapist has run a red traffic light. Facebook is spying in ways that are much worse than the one reported in this article. I shall skip over "relatively minor" (which are in my opinion major) invasions of privacy such as the consequences of having people identify you in every photograph, but try this one for size:-

Facebook android apps and iphone apps may soon listen to the microphone to collect keywords which are used to direct advertising to your accounts.

In May 2014, Facebook rolled out an application that can turn on the microphone of the android or iphone device that identified songs playing or television being watched. This allowed facebook to display your TV watching activities etc on your facebook page. Whenever you turn your smartphone on, this feature would be active, regardless of whether or not you turn to the facebook app, because once installed, the app starts when you turn on your phone.
Facebook Wants To Listen In On What You're Doing

Facebook stressed that "The raw audio never leaves the phone" and said "Facebook is also attempting to protect user privacy from government and third-party surveillance by making all of its communications secure and encrypted." But of course, facebook will have no choice but to turn its data over to the NSA etc if issued with a warrant, and as revealed by Edward Snowden, what is happening is not just specific data collection, but bulk data collection, i.e. one warrant can cover everyones data, as it did with Lavabit.

“We’re not recording audio or sound and sending it to Facebook or its servers,” says Facebook spokesperson Momo Zhou. “We turn the audio it hears into a code — code that is not reversible into audio — and then we match it against a database of code.” Facebook says the feature will be used for harmless things, like identifying the song or TV show playing in the background, but is it really harmless or does it just add to Big Brother's database about you? Further, by using the phone’s microphone, it potentially has the ability to listen to everything.

Early this year, Facebook acquired a corporation called "Wit.ai". In a nutshell, this technology acquired allows facebook to define words which speech recognition software will recognize when overheard by the microphone of the android or iphone device.
Facebook Buys Voice-Recognition Corporation

The intention is to listen in to conversations for key words and use the detection of those keywords to target advertising not only on your facebook account, but by meant of tracking, any number of web pages that you visit.

Facebook maintained that it was not listening to your private converstations. Facebook made this statement: " ... Here’s how it works: if you choose to turn the feature on, when you write a status update, the app converts any sound into an audio fingerprint on your phone. This fingerprint is sent to our servers to try and match it against our database of audio and TV fingerprints. ..."
Users slam ‘creepy’ new feature that allows Facebook to listen in


If I ever feel the need to own a smart phone, I'll keep it inside a sound- and gps-suppressing box when I'm not using it.


Cool. Go get 'em, Belgium!


Useful tools for people that don't like this sort of shit:

Disconnect - Displays and blocks trackers and third-party requests coming from backgrounds of webpages
Ghostery- Similar to Disconnect but operated by a company which does it's own tracking, use at discretion.
AdBlock Edge- Open Source ad and tracker blocker
AdNauseam - works in conjunction with AdBlock Edge to discretely "click" on every single advertisement that is being blocked (which you aren't seeing). Disrupts the tracking and advertising algorithms by overloading them with pointless information.


Sad, seems every civilized country around the world is brighter than America.


Or, you could just delete all the browsing info after you are done. Write your own script that shreds the browser cache and out it on a timer. Don't depend on third party.

That being said, I'll quote one of my favorite authors Robert A Heinlein, who popularized the expression TANSTAAFL (there ain't no such thing as a free lunch).

People have to realize that nothing is "free". Other people who provide that service have to eat and feed their families as well. They can do this by charging for a service, or using extensions of that service to make revenue. All that stuff is expressed in the agreement everyone clicks "agree" but never reads.

What i tell people, if they don't like something, stop using it or quit whining. But, apparently, whining is what most people are only good at.


Okay, a few things.

First, most people don't know how to automate their computers. But even if they did, clearing your browsing history and cookies is not the same thing as disabling trackers, which actively run in the background of most websites and create server-side databases of your browsing behavior which is indexed to you regardless of whether you clear local cookies. So that advice isn't particularly applicable.

Second, I don't use Facebook. That means I haven't clicked "agree" to anything. So even if I were to buy your legalistic justification for unsolicited mass surveillance, it wouldn't apply to me or to the specific case against Facebook that this article is describing, which is about the unsolicited tracking of non-members.

Third, treating unsolicited mass surveillance as "the cost of doing business" of using the internet is fundamental distortion of the concept of exchange, which is premised upon informed consent. The surveillance apparatus is designed to operate in secret even in those instances were someone has in fact accepted terms and conditions. Which, by the way, are worded so as to be incomprehensible to almost any human being. Have you tried reading one? Many websites (like this one, for example) operate without the use of invasive tracking software.

The internet was not built up from the premise of surveillance, surveillance has been inserted into the internet. Facebook, Google, Ubuntu, etc — all these things began with services funded by conventional advertising and only later did they change the terms and conditions so as to allow for virtually unlimited data collection, repackaging, and sale.

The internet is not owned by Facebook. The internet was built largely with public funding. It is a technology, it isn't a service. Telling people who don't want corporate spies monitoring every aspect of their private lives that they should just get off the internet is ridiculous.

Protecting your privacy isn't "whinning", it's taking an active stance against surveillance and the corporatization of our lives. There are alternative funding models available aside from unsolicited surveillance and information selling.


"Write your own script that shreds the browser cache and out it on a timer. Don't depend on third party."

Huh? Among the billions of people online, how many, do you imagine, know what a "script" is - much less how to write one to protect themselves?

"People have to realize that nothing is "free"". Really? And who do you suppose is going to educate people that "nothing is free"? Certainly not the the social media corporations who depend on users' believing that their services are free. And certainly not the corporations owning our politicians or media - they thrive on the promotion of assertions such as yours that we all have a "choice". Everyone having a choice is a wonderful social aspiration. Unfortunately it's not an actual reflection of the daily reality of most people on planet Earth. For it to reflect reality, there would need to be real alternatives to the current model of loud proclamations that "we offer a free service" repeated ad nauseam while secretly and silently violating laws such as Belgium's in order to make money (isn't this, in other domains, simply referred to as "theft"?). Where are they? There's not even a real competitor to Facebook using its deceptive business model,much less one that doesn't.


Not gonna go thru each one, but this one caught my attention. yes, the browsig history will be logged, maybe, saying user with cookie 2357654332 did this and that. The next time you go on that site, the system will look for the cookie it placed on your box. If it isn't finding it you're just a brand new Joe clicking around.

On the other hand, someone who puts pictures of their lunch Lo Mein on the web and someone who actually checks to see how said Lo Mein looks like don't really give a flying whether their habits are stored or not. If they di they are hypocrites,

No it is not, Facebook pays for that internet access, and part of that cost goes to the government as taxes and various other fees paid by the telecom companies to the government. Facebook, wrote the software, and maintains all the servers they use.

My advice is, don't like it, don't use it. I don't.


Actually, i decided to take up on this one. I never check, as i really don't give a flying, but today i cleaned my cache and went over to commondreams. Lo and behold i get 6 cookies of 6 different types:

_ga - Used to distinguish users
_gat - Used to throttle request rate
_utma - Used to distinguish users and sessions.
_utmz - Stores the traffic source or campaign thatexplains how the user reached your site
_utmt - Used to throttle request rate
_utmb - Used to determine new sessions/visits.

The first and second one are exactly the ones under scrutiny in this article.

And this is before i log into the comments system.

Anyway, happy browsing, :smile:


Google analytics is maybe a bit suspect but I don't think it's what this article is about, actually. _ga tracks unique visitors to a website for analytic purposes. I could be wrong but I don't believe it is tracking users across websites.

_gat apparently expires after 10 minutes and seems to be more about reducing data collection on high volume websites. I don't see how that's what is being discussed.
"This cookie name is associated with Google Universal Analytics,
according to documentation it is used to throttle the request rate -
limiting the collection of data on high traffic sites. It expires after
10 minutes."

utma,utmt and utmz are all also google analytics. All of these are listed as performance cookies on cookiepedia.

has_js is a drupal cookie that checks for JavaScript


Is google analytics invasive? I guess that's a matter of debate. I have them blocked, anyways. If you don't care that's your business.