Study: Facebook can track half of all internet activity

That Facebook eagerly collects data about its users is not new. But how transparent are we really? A study has shown that more than half of all website views can be traced back to Facebook.

A study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) has shown that Facebook is able to understand up to 52 percent of all websites that Internet users visit. This works via built-in trackers in Like, Share and Login buttons that are integrated into websites. Particularly worrying: The data collected can also be used to draw conclusions about Internet users who are not logged on to Facebook.

More than half of Internet traffic traceable

For the study, the economists evaluated the user data of 5,000 participants and calculated which data Facebook could theoretically store. The result: 52 percent of the websites visited and 40 percent of the time spent online can be traced by Facebook. However, the study does not provide any information about which data is actually documented by Facebook.

Hannes Ulrich, research associate at the institute, explains:

“Because companies don’t provide much information about what algorithms they use, no one can say for sure what data is actually being stored and used. But our research shows that the technical basis for monitoring a large part of Internet activity is platforms available.”

Since Facebook could link the collected data with the stored user data, it is theoretically also possible to draw conclusions about website visitors who are not registered with the platform. Because based on the Facebook users who visit a website, Facebook can create consumer profiles that contain demographic characteristics. For example, the predominant age range or gender. These profiles can then also be applied to other website visitors, for example to display personalized advertising.

Institute criticizes European legislation

The current legal situation on this topic is not sufficient for the study makers. Since the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), internet users have had the option of objecting to the use of trackers and the storage of user data in cookies, but this is still not being used enough.

“The new regulations in the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act currently planned by the European Commission could penalize violations of data protection guidelines more severely. In order for the rules to be implemented, however, the supervisory authorities need to be adequately staffed.”

according to Ulrich.

How to protect your data

It’s getting harder and harder to keep control of your own data online. The first step is to object to the storage of cookies on websites. It can also help to disguise your own IP address. VPN providers help with this, Surfshark VPN offers a current offer.

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