No Business Like the Like (and Plus) Business

December 5, 2011
By

Mark Zuckerberg is no stranger to controversy where Facebook is concerned. His first go at a social website drew charges from Harvard (where he was enrolled at the time), and Facebook itself famously endured copyright claims from alleged contributors shortly after its launch.

Privacy practices have haunted Facebook throughout its online life, and recently the FTC announced a settlement with Facebook that spells out significant areas of improvement required by the company, including scheduled privacy audits for the next 20 years. The settlement is similar to the FTC’s agreement with Google in the wake of privacy violations surrounding the now-defunct Buzz service. Google now operates Google+, a renovated approach to the social networking space.

Facebook boasts over 800 million users, and Google+ recently hit the 40 million user mark – so it’s no surprise that the FTC is concerned about the way data is collected and used on these sites. But as Ghostery users know – these services appear all over the web, not just at the facebook.com and plus.google.com domains. In fact, in our top 100 periodic table over at KnowYourElements.com, Facebook Connect (which is the product name for the “Like” button) ranks as the third most frequently encountered third-party element on the web, with Google+ coming in close behind at position #5.

These privacy concerns are not academic exercises from the FTC – even without visiting either facebook.com or plus.google.com, you’re likely to encounter elements from these sites almost seven times a day.

Average User Interactions: Facebook & Google+

click to embiggen

This graph shows how frequently our Ghostrank panel members encountered these social network elements since the beginning of the summer (Google+ began a phased release on June 28). There are a couple of very interesting facts to take away here:

  • First, these numbers do NOT include encounters on the first-party domains. This means that like buttons on facebook.com and +1 buttons after every Google search result are not represented here – we’re talking only about the social network widgets seen on other sites across the web.
  • On average, Ghostery users encountered over 250 like and +1 buttons in October, at a rate of 6.6 per day.
  • In four short months, Google+ elements have grown to be nearly as proliferate as Facebook elements.

The FTC is clearly paying close attention to user privacy, and time will tell how their focus changes the practices of these companies (and other companies that rely on user data). Ghostery users don’t have to wait and see – they can directly manage their interactions with these elements (and over 700 others). You can download Ghostery for free, and consider agreeing to be part of our (totally anonymous) Ghostrank panel, which makes interesting insights like this possible.

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5 Responses to No Business Like the Like (and Plus) Business

  1. Danato on December 5, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Thank Buddha, Allah, JHWH and the lot – and you guys -, for Ghostery.
    However, in my settings I see the blocked trackers for a few seconds, and I have noticed several times that precisely Google-analytics and FB connect are NOT blocked. It helps when I refresh, but this is highly annoying. Is this a known issue? I use SRW-Iron.

    • adam on December 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm

      As with all Chromium-based browsers, we’re waiting on Google to change some things on their end so that blocking is 100%. They’ve said it’s on their shortlist, but until they do, blocking in Ghostery for Chrome will let a few scripts through, unfortunately.

  2. Thor Steen on December 5, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    I have ghostery on my mac mini and every time I see the list of little things (sometimes a long list) that are blocked from my computer, I cant help be emit an evil giggle. My wife thinks it’s weird, but she just put ghostery on her computer too. :)
    Thanks.

  3. Steve I. on January 31, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    Many people do not realize that everything they look at on the web is tracked & recorded, and every time you “like” something, that info is logged, shared and sold. For some reason many do not see this as an invasion of their privacy. Imagine if everything you bought at every retails store, every item you looked at on a shelf, everything a friend said that you “liked” and every place you drove to in a day were logged/recorded/sold. There’s no reason for “big Brother” to take away our privacy when we give it away for free.
    Ghostery is is, IMHO, a “must have” add-on. THANKS

  4. RichAitch on January 16, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    I have to say that after a couple of months, I now rate this above my AV product. It actually makes me feel safe each time the little bubble of blame pops out to show me what’s blocked.

    This is a great product, and something I’d be happy to pay for along with my AV.

    Great product, great support, great results – thank you.

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