Facebook finds another way to claim it's protecting your privacy while it spies on you

Tracking everything you "Like" on the Web after you're already signed out? Perfectly legitimate!

Everyone makes fun of Facebook because it's so obvious about how it claims to be keeping your privacy while standing right in front of you, writing little notes with all your secrets on them and handing them off to advertisers, snoops, other Web sites and whoever else thinks they can do something profitable with the knowledge that you like cookies-and-cream ice cream, but only in the summer and only if it's already melted enough to be runny.

Some companies -- especially those that are really concerned with their image and the kind of stories people pass around about them on social-networking sites like Facebook -- would take it as criticism that so many people make snarky jokes about their "ideals" that their name has become a standard in Internet Meme-ing for "violation of trust and privacy."

Some companies are not Facebook, which yesterday not only owned up to its practice of continuing to track customers after they log out, but defended it as a way to safeguard those users' privacy.

See, it's much more private and safe for Facebook members if Facebook is able to track their Web browsing 24 hours per day, whether they've logged in or not, and collect information on their preferences every time they hit a "Like" button.

Facebook distributes the "Like" buttons and other smart widgets to Web sites, which like them for their ability to drive traffic. Buttons from Facebook and Google appear on a third of the 1,000 most-heavily visited Web sites, according to a study by the Journal.

Those widgets seem anonymous(ish). You're supposed to have a Facebook account if you use one, but they don't ask you to sign in.

That's because (as any curious geek would have figured out) they already know who you are. If you've logged in to Facebook within the past 30 days, a persistent cookie will ID you to the Like button, which slips the info to Facebook on the sly, attaching it to your personal profile that, by now, is nearly large and detailed enough to be usable as briefing material by the Pod Person Facebook is growing to replace you.

Facebook defends the practice because tracking cookies make it easier for them to identify you when you come back to Facebook, rather than making you go through more complicated login cycles, according to what a Facebook spokes-pod-person told the Wall Street Journal.

Besides, Pod People don't need privacy, so it's only a matter of time before even gross violations of yours are moot.

Facebook doesn't even use the data (for long); it doesn't use it to track you! It only uses it to welcome you home with the gift of hospitality and a nice, aromatic Pod plant.

In the thank-you note, you might mention to them that, if they remember that big push they made last month to improve privacy? Yeah, that's still broken.

Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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