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      Instagram and Facebook Are Stalking You on Websites Accessed Through Their Apps | What You Need to Do

      Social media platforms have had some bad press in recent times, largely prompt by the vast extent of their data collection. Meta has upped the ante.

      Meta has reportedly devise a way to also know everything you do in external websites access through its apps.

      Why is it going to such lengths?

      And is there a way to avoid this surveillance?

      ‘Injecting’ code to follow you Meta has a custom in-app browser that operates on Facebook, Instagram, and any website you might click through to from both these apps.

      Engineer and privacy researcher Felix Krause has discover this proprietary browser has additional program code insert into it.

      Felix Krause develop a tool that found Instagram and Facebook add up to 18 lines of code to websites visit through Meta’s in-app browsers.

      This “code injection” enables user tracking and overrides tracking restrictions that browsers such as Chrome and Safari have in place.

      It allows Meta to collect sensitive user information, including “every button and link tap, text selections, screenshots, as well as any form inputs, like passwords, addresses and credit card numbers”.

      Felix Krause publish his findings online on 10th August 2022, including samples of the actual code.

      Meta has said it isn’t doing anything users didn’t consent to.

      A Meta spokesperson said :

      We intentionally developed this code to honour people’s [Ask to track] choices on our platforms […] The code allows us to aggregate user data before using it for targeted advertising or measurement purposes.

      The “code” mention in the case is pcm.js, a script that acts to aggregate a user’s browsing activities.

      Meta says the script is insert base on whether users have given consent and information gain is use only for advertising purposes.

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      So is it acting ethically?

      Well, the company has done due diligence by informing users of its intention to collect an expanded range of data.

      It stop short of making clear what the full implications of doing so would be.

      People might give their consent to tracking in a more general sense, but “inform” consent implies full knowledge of the possible consequences.

      And users were not explicitly made aware their activities on other sites could be follow through a code injection.

      Why is Meta doing this?

      Data are the central commodity of Meta’s business model.

      There is astronomical value in the amount of data Meta can collect by injecting a tracking code into third-party websites open through the Instagram and Facebook apps.

      Meta’s business model is being threatened and events from the recent past can help shed light on why it’s doing this in the first place.

      It boils down to the fact that Apple (which owns the Safari browser), Google (which owns Chrome) and the Firefox browser are all actively placing restrictions on Meta’s ability to collect data.

      Apple’s iOS 14.5 update came alongside a requirement that all apps host on the Apple app store must get users’ explicit permission to track and collect their data across apps own by other companies.

      Meta has publicly said this single iPhone alert is costing its Facebook business $10 billion (approx. Rs. 79,400 crore) each year.

      Apple’s Safari browser also applies a default setting to block all third-party “cookies”.

      These are little chunks of tracking code that websites deposit on your computer and which tell the website’s owner about your visit to the site.

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      Google will also soon be phasing out third-party cookies. 

      Firefox recently announce “total cookie protection” to prevent so-call as cross-page tracking.

      Meta is being flank by browsers introducing restrictions on extensive user data tracking.

      Its response was to create its own browser that circumvents these restrictions.

      How can I Protect Yourself?

      The easiest way to stop Meta tracking your external activities through its in-app browser is to simply not use it; make sure you’re opening web pages in a trusted browser of choice such as Safari, Chrome or Firefox.

      If you can’t find this screen option, you can manually copy and paste the web address into a trust browser.

      Another option is to access the social media platforms via a browser.

      So instead of using the Instagram or Facebook app, visit the sites by entering their URL into your trust browser’s search bar.

      This should also solve the tracking problem.

      As we are not suggesting you ditch Facebook or Instagram altogether.

      But we should all be aware of how our online movements and usage patterns may be carefully recorded and use in ways we’re not told about.

      You have to remember that on the Internet, if the service is free, you’re probably the product. 

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