Monday Grok: How much does Facebook know about you?

It is tracking what you read, where you link and what you buy.

For those of you concerned that companies like Facebook might just be a little too invasive with regards to your personal browsing activities, this story on Business Insider today won’t do much to assuage your fears.

Business Insider deployed a diagnostic tool called Abine DNT to test what Facebook was up to. Samantha Felix went about her normal day using this tool and by the day’s end she reported that Facebook had “more than 300 trackers watching our Internet activity”.

The simple act of logging in to Facebook started the count at 228. Naughty, naughty Mark Zuckerberg.

The article noted: “But it isn’t just the website you are visiting that makes requests for information: online trackers from other companies hidden on the site do it, too. They act as third parties on your computer: you can't see them without privacy software, you probably wouldn't expect them to be present, and you probably don't intend to share your information with them. They request information like your geographic location, which other sites you’ve visited, what you click, and your Facebook username.”

Now, in a sense the fact that this is going on won’t be news to a lot of you — it wasn’t to us — but the scale of it and that fact that it’s getting easier to quantify certainly moves the story along a bit. The slideshow associated with the article concludes three things Facebook is most interested in learning about you:

    what you are reading on the Web;
  1. what are you linking to from other social media sites and;
  2. what are you buying.

Hey Apple, don’t be creepy

<i>Mashable</i> noted this morning that Apple has just been granted a patent that will no doubt be beloved by tyrants, dictators and others all over the world.

According to the story this morning, the patent “would make your smartphone useless when entering an area deemed too sensitive for mobile photo and video”.

If you are super keen you can go and read the patent here . But if like the rest of us, you have a life to get on with, Mashable helpfully pulled out the most important part.

“As wireless devices such as cellular telephones, pagers, personal media devices and smartphones become ubiquitous, more and more people are carrying these devices in various social and professional settings. The result is that these wireless devices can often annoy, frustrate, and even threaten people in sensitive venues. For example, cell phones with loud ringers frequently disrupt meetings, the presentation of movies, religious ceremonies, weddings, funerals, academic lectures, and test-taking environments.”

See, all perfectly harmless stuff.

Indeed, think of all the “religious ceremonies, weddings, funerals, academic lectures” in places like Tiananmen Square or Green Square or Guantanamo Bay that would be spared the embarrassment of unauthorised photography or reporting, and distribution across social networks. It’s hard enough running a modern day dictatorship without Android and iOS devices popping up inconveniently to de-complicate the kinds of privacy considerations that in the past you just took for granted.

We wonder if this is another piece of Cupertino magic that Samsung might be keen to copy.

Feed the spider

Finally, Grok has discovered a lovely new browser based tool that will optimise his copy for search engines on the fly. No need to worry about pesky readers like you lot anymore, with your comically disloyal approach to content.

According to this wonderful piece of gear from InboundWriter , simply including the terms ‘Android OS’, ‘Google Street View’, ‘community hospital’ and ‘Steve Wozniak’ is a guaranteed traffic builder. Of course, it suggested using the terms ‘Android OS’, ‘Google Street View’, ‘community hospital’ and ‘Steve Wozniak’ at least five times in the article just to be sure. Frankly though, I can’t imagine how I could squeeze the words like ‘Android OS’, ‘Google Street View’, ‘community hospital’ and ‘Steve Wozniak’ into an article about ‘Internet privacy issues’ without appearing a little shameless. One more time, ‘Android OS’, ‘Google Street View’, ‘community hospital’ and ‘Steve Wozniak’.

What would Steve Wozniak make of it all, really? Perhaps he could discuss it with his good friend President Barack Obama on their Android OS smartphone device using wireless smartphone technology preferably over a Verizon wireless network, and if they are both using HTC EVO 3D over that Verizon wireless network, all the better. And if Steve Wozniak could just talk about community hospitals with President Barack Obama on their smartphones and maybe even suggest how President Barack Obama could use Google Street View on his iPhone smartphone to get to the community hospital, and maybe discuss healthcare reform.... oh man, my Google spider just up and died of pleasure.

Andrew Birmingham is the CEO of Silicon Gully Investments. Follow him on Twitter @ag_birmingham.

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