Mozilla is going to track Facebook tracking you

Facebook app

Over the past few years, Facebook has been on the receiving end of various allegations due to their aggressive tracking practices on their users. Information has been touted to be worth more than gold in our current times, and Facebook, along with its myriads of other platforms they own, has been using practices that are borderline unethical to ensure they know what their users are doing, both on their platforms and also on other platforms that they do not necessarily own.

A new study from Mozilla has now been announced with the aim of fighting against these off-site trackers from Facebook by tracking them back. Mozilla’s researchers call the study “Facebook Pixel Hunt” and it will seek to track the company’s immense web-wide tracking network and investigate the intel Facebook is collecting on users.

As Gizmodo reports, the study is focused on a piece of tracking tech known as the “Facebook Pixel” hence the study being given the same name. These tiny pieces of tech are buried in millions of sites across the web from online stores to news outlets; therefore, there is a very big chance they already have your data, even though you stopped using Facebook in 2012.

In exchange for these millions of sites hosting a free pixel from Facebook, the social media giant then shares with them data collected. This enables the websites to have a similar ability to Facebook’s in accurately tracking their own users, while also being able to micro-target them with ads based on their browser patterns.

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If a visitor on these websites already has an account on Facebook, or on any other platform owned by Facebook, information obtained from the visitor is then combined with what Facebook already knows about the person. In cases where an individual happens to have no account with any platform owned by the company, the data is still collected and a “shadow profile” is created to represent that particular user.

Should you be interested in what the researchers at Mozilla are doing and want to join in the study, simply download the free extension called Mozilla Rally. The extension is only available on Firefox, and it will scoop up any data being collected by Facebook’s pixels as you browse various websites on the internet.

The extension will also keep track of the amount of time spent on different web pages, the URLs that the browser visits, amongst other things. However, Mozilla has made it clear that all the data being exported will be de-identified and will also not be shared by other third parties not relevant to the study.

It will be interesting to see how Facebook reacts to the study, or whether they will choose to just ignore it and continue doing what they have always done. Mozilla has also carried other studies in the same line in the past, including studying YouTube’s recommendations algorithm in order to identify what sort of content the company is pushing on its users. Most recently, they carried out a study on how various users tap into political news stories and also stories about the pandemic.

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Naftaly is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for tech, video games and pop culture. When he is not writing articles for AndroidKenya, he is probably rewatching the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the hundredth time. Email at criskariuki@gmail.com Twitter @KarisNaftaly