Facebook Even Tracks What Users Don’t Type

Facebook Tracks UsersSocial media mogul Facebook has even been tracking what their users don’t type. It’s a pretty sure bet that nearly every Facebook user has typed out a comment or a status update, and then had second thoughts only to delete it before hitting Enter or Post. Well it turns out that Facebook knows about it and tracked it.

Employees at Facebook have dubbed this “self-censorship,” and they have just conducted a study of this personal filtering method. Facebook summer software engineer and Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. student, Sauvik Das, along with Facebook data scientist, Adam Kramer, have been conducting a study on this “self-censorship.”

The two project leaders studied data collected in July 2012 from 5 million English-speaking users over a 17-day period. The study found that 71 percent of the users censored their own posts. The users that held back did so on an average of 4.52 status updates and an average of 3.2 comments.

The censored data is collected when a user enters text it triggers code to be sent to the web browser from Facebook. This code sent from Facebook then analyzes what was typed and sends the metadata back to Facebook. Experts have compared this method to how an email program creates a draft of an email message, but the difference is that a user knows that the draft is being created, unlike the Facebook tracking method.

If a user has a Facebook account, it means that they have agreed to the Facebook’s Data Use Policy. Most users are aware that agreeing to the policy means Facebook collects information that users choose to share. However, the policy goes even deeper. Facebook’s policy also covers tracking what users choose to type but do not share.

The study did say that Facebook was not tracking what users actually did say, and they only tracked if users censored their comment or status post. However, both Das and Kramer have stated in the study’s conclusion that they are looking to expand their study to see what was actually being censored. Facebook says that the more they know about why and how their users are self-censoring their posts, the more they can help to minimize it.

The study found five common reasons why people were possibly filtering their posts.

  1. User will censor posts to stop an argument or to avoid instigating one.
  2. People will also think twice about posting a comment if they fear they may offend someone.
  3. Users may fear that they will bore their friends with the comment.
  4. People may have a fear of being inconsistent with their own self-representations.
  5. The user may be stopped by technical reasons.

The study also gathered demographics from the Facebook users with some behavioral features as well. In addition to these, Facebook also tracked the average number of friends, and their political ideology in relation to their friends’ beliefs. This information was used to cross reference the data gathered from their friends. Those cross sections were:

  1. The user’s political stance compared to their friends views.
  2. The user’s political ideology compared to how homogenous their friends are.
  3. How gender-diverse their network is, in relation to their own gender.

Facebook has had much interest in how their users think and how they react with their site. There may be plans in future to track a user’s mouse movement over the Facebook page to further understand the user’s habits. So it should really come as no surprise when they are even tracking what users don’t type.

By Brent Matsalla

CBC News
NY Daily News
ARS Technica
Self Censorship on Facebook

2 Responses to "Facebook Even Tracks What Users Don’t Type"

  1. bert   December 18, 2013 at 6:33 am

    Zuckerberg was in the lineup with the other movers n shakers, complaining about government surveillance, but his company is very much a leading example of the shoe calling the road black. Not to put too fine a point on it, but he did just swing over to Israel not too long ago, and there’s this lady in CA state government who’s a dual-national, and somehow sits on our national (in?)security council, so she’s in with all the federal liars and spies, and…talk for a minute, not about stealthy subversives with violent political agendas, but about the simple issue of control, and the other issue, about money, which is about the same thing, and our new, 21st century online society, where the likelihood is high that everyone now has a compiled, multi-source digital file in an archive someplace, to which all your online comments will be appended to, along with a brief report containing your medical information, any legal problems you may have, or have had in the past, list of employers, and all that other pinpoint-type information. This is the Information Age, and they do the profiling-thing, both government and private industry keep tabs on the public.

    Many countries in the world also spy on each other, in addition to spying on their own citizens. They also spy on each other’s citizens, especially when those citizens come across the border. Individual citizens also spy on each other. There’s a lot of spying, and not-honest stuff going on out there, and presumably, law enforcement and consumer protection companies like antivirus companies and so forth have the public’s interest at heart, but at the end of the day, it all falls under the general umbrella of centralized control. The bigger a company gets, the more it starts to smell like government. Liars, spies, crooks, frauds, thieves, and their lawyers…all dressed up in their Sunday best to try and leave an image of legitimacy with the public, and they call it ‘security’, for short. Welcome to the Digital Age, of biometrics and tracking devices. And, people like Snowden, who’ve crossed over from our security apparatus to that of a foreign country, for all intents and purposes. Doesn’t anyone just talk, anymore? Apparently not. Not openly and honestly, anyway.

    I’ll pop the lid on the can of questions pertaining to media-centric overt espionage, both foreign, and domestic, but someone else can dole out the worms, there. Keyloggers are out there.

  2. Burgert Adriaan Potgieter   December 18, 2013 at 1:41 am

    FaceBook has you by the short and curly’s. If you want to use FB, you are forced into accepting their conditions to record your personal info, thus you NO Chance of being Private. I do not mind but how do I know that this info stay’s Private and confidential after this recent Hulla Baloo with the NSA.


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