Facebook is certainly no stranger to privacy concerns, and no stranger to deliberately compromising their users’ privacy for the sake of data mining either, but this might just take the cake as far as ridiculous over-reaches is concerned. According to an original report from Gizmodo, Facebook is reading your private messages and Liking the pages of the things you talk about, without your knowledge or consent.
Gizmodo appears to have done their research pretty thoroughly on this one, and the evidence is clear: in one of their examples, Friend A sends a private message to Friend B, and that message contains a link to a page about The-Dream (the musician). Lo and behold, The-Dream’s Facebook page instantly has two more likes than it did before the message was sent, presumably because Facebook is counting both Friend A and Friend B.
Since the original report was published, Facebook has responded to the allegations, and says that none of your information is actually being publicly revealed. Their statement reads:
Absolutely no private information has been exposed. Each time a person shares a URL to Facebook, including through messages, the number of shares displayed on the social plugin for that website increases. Our systems parse the URL being shared in order to render the appropriate preview, and to also ensure that the message is not spam. These counts do not affect the privacy settings of content, and URLs shared through private messages are not attributed publicly with user profiles.
So basically, yes they’re tracking your messages and Liking things for you, but no, you won’t actually show up in the list of people who Like what you’re talking about; you’ll just be an anonymous +1 to that page’s Likes. While this is a good thing if you’re sending message about “incest and Al-Qaeda” (as Gizmodo puts it), since it means you won’t publicly show up as Liking those things, this is still a really creepy move on Facebook’s part. At this point, we’ve pretty much stopped being surprised when Facebook does something creepy with their users’ data.