Facebook recently announced that it would bolster its ad targeting efforts by expanding the way it tracks users and their data.

The company opted to ignore the Do Not Track setting on Web browsers, which lets users indicate that they do not, in fact, wish to be tracked. It wasn’t much of a surprising move for Facebook to make (other Internet behemoths, including Google and Yahoo, have publicly confirmed that they also ignore Do Not Track) but a controversial one nonetheless, given the social network’s vast global reach and scale.

Following the announcement, a Facebook spokesman told AdAge that it is ignoring Do Not Track “because currently there is no industry consensus” – which is actually a fair point to make.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to stop Facebook from tracking your Web history and general browsing behaviour so it can serve you ‘better ads’.

Enter Cologne, Germany-based Eyeo, the company behind Adblock Plus, the super-popular ‘annoying ad blocker’. In a blog post published yesterday, the Adblock Plus team pointed out how its tool can be used to disable Facebook’s social media button (and almost 6,800 other trackers to boot).


Adblock Plus says Facebook offers users a way to opt out of tracking, but deems it ‘predictably contentious’, circuitous and temporary by design. For those looking to block Facebook from peering into their Web browsing habits, it offers a simple and permanent alternative, Adblock Plus says.

“Facebook’s blatant move against fair-minded Internet users simply cannot be tolerated so we’re trying to make sure users of Adblock Plus who also might be a Facebook user understand how to block the tracking efforts of this behemoth,” said Till Faida, co-founder of Adblock Plus.

“This is simply a way for Facebook to make more money at the expense of users around the world. We’re not going to stand by passively.”

Adblock Plus also offers Facebook users a way to remove other ‘annoyances’.

Also read:

German webmail providers are trying to trick users into removing Adblock, other browser add-ons

(Featured image credit: Miroslav Liska / Shutterstock)

  • Valerie O’Neill

    It is obvious how companies should respond to Do Not Track, the clue is in the name. Do not track this device. Do not place UID cookies or enact other procedures (such as browser fingerprinting) aimed at tracking without first gaining consent. There is a useful API defined in the standard (and already implemented by a major browser) to register web-wide or site-specific consent.

    Obviously “consensus” is problematic when some companies’ management believes blanket defiance is a workable strategy, but most polls show the vast majority of people want to have the ability to express a preference and have it respected.

    Blocking script according to the demands of incompetently assembled and unverified “blacklists” will harm creative contextual as much as surveillance targeted advertising, as well as other benign third-party elements designed to enhance web experience and privacy.

    This is why publishers and brands are increasingly supporting Do Not Track.

    Without a universally respected signal the only alternative is an arms race between determined trackers and increasingly partisan and indiscriminate script blockers, with users not only continuing to be tracked but their web experience and security severely compromised.

    • Isobel_Riel

      There will never be a “universally respected signal”, because too many people will always think they have the right to do whatever they want with your computer. The simplest solution is to stop them from doing it by any means necessary. Once that’s done, their “agreement” to any “consensus” has been made irrelevant.

      • Valerie O’Neill

        Blockers may be needed while the law is inadequate, but they need only block bad-actors. For example EFF’s PrivacyBadger is an open-source extension that can be configured to only block servers that ignore Do Not Track. There will be others.
        The problem with simply relying on “blacklists” is that 1) new trackers are continually created and lists do not include them, 2) lists will be loaded with innocent third-parties (for instance by companies wishing to undermine non-tracking competitors) and other false-positives leading to diminished web experience (sites don’t work and/or privacy diminished), 3) determined trackers will compete in an arms race that the blockers will never win.
        If we cannot trust web servers then the integrity and viability of the whole web is undermined. This is why law needs to be created to back the right to object (to tracking).

        • Isobel_Riel

          The law will always be inadequate, because “bad actors” (those who feel they have the right to do as they please with your property) will always exist. Protecting yourself should always be a multifaceted approach rather than relying on any nonexistent silver bullet. You can never trust everyone, and you never should. And yet, somehow, human trade and interaction goes on.

  • DigDug2k

    ““because currently there is no industry consensus” – which is actually a fair point to make.”

    Like other commentators said, I don’t think there’s really any fair point to make there. This is about money, not “industry consensus”, and the point of DNT was to give advertisers their chance to play a fair game. Since they haven’t, I’m happy to see things like ABP (or its other more open siblings) providing alternatives.

    The other nice thing DNT has given us is a voice from users. We’ve been continually hearing from trackers/advertisers for a decade now that people really really want to be tracked. Its fairly obvious that there is a large set of people who don’t agree with that. Its nice to be able to call BS to this language from the trackers now at least.

  • abarrera

    I would also suggest things like Disconnect.me to block these type of things. I wonder how long it will take the EU Commission to sue Facebook’s ass following the Google suit.

  • rdyjugis95g0d8fg0d

    Facebook hasn’t started collecting our data through their social plugins, they’ve always been doing so. What they’ve done is publicly declare that they’d use this same data for advertising purposes.

    Sorry for being blunt, but you were an idiot if you thought they’d never use all this data.

  • mevdschee

    Yes indeed, but also beware of other sneaky settings, like DNT and non-intrusive advertising options as described here: http://www.leaseweblabs.com/2014/10/block-google-facebook-improve-firefox-privacy/