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Facebook – following you around the web

With over one billion users, Facebook is one of the most visited websites in the world. But did you know it’s also one of the best tracking websites? Using widgets all over the web, the social giant is actually keeping records of almost every website we visit.

If you use the internet regularly (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?), you should have already seen evidence of Facebook’s tracking tools. The best way to check if the social network is tracking you is to look for the company’s social sharing buttons.

The social buttons come in two forms – look out for the blue “Like” button, or a “share on Facebook” icon. Both of these are indicators that Facebook’s monitoring service is running on that website, and that the office in Silicon Valley is taking notes of what pages you’re visiting and linking them to your user account. Scary!

Most of us wouldn’t realise that our browsing habits were being recorded by a service that we thought was just useful for browsing through our old school friends’ pictures. But it’s a reality that Facebook and other free services make their money from selling advertisements, and the better they know their users, the better they can target their advertising (and therefore the more money they can charge for it).

If you’re concerned about this, there’s a very simple way to avoid Facebook’s prying ways: sign-out of Facebook. If you’re not signed in, the websites you visit can’t be associated with your Facebook account.

If you’re a heavy user – or someone prone to forgetting your passwords – there’s a slightly easier way than signing in and out of your account. Most internet browsers feature a “privacy mode”, which allows you to browse the internet without being signed in to any services.

How to access private browsing

The “private browsing” mode essentially creates a new window without any of your personal details stored in it. This means that every time your close the window, all of your browsing data is deleted. Therefore if you want to browse websites and don’t want Facebook (or other people in your house) to know what you’re looking at, use private browsing.

It should be pointed out, however, that if you log in to Facebook in a private browsing window, the company will still have access to your data until you close the window and re-open it again.

How you access private browsing depends on your browser:

Google Chrome - Simply hold the Control and Shift keys, then press N.

Firefox & Internet Explorer – Hold Control and Shit keys, then press P.

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