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As everyone knows, Facebook is tracking us if we're logged in on Facebook.

Now the question: Do Facebook or Stack Overflow track us, if we're logged in @ Stack Overflow via Facebook? Is it the same as I would be logged in on Facebook the entire day?

By "tracking us" I mean: tracking people's browsing habits via their like buttons.

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    What do you mean by 'tracking us'? Of course, Stack Overflow knows what method you used to login, and has records of your activity here. Mar 8, 2013 at 18:53
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    They also silently turn on any attached webcams
    – Geobits
    Mar 8, 2013 at 19:10
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    That reminds me, Geobits, you have a little bit of mustard on your cheek Mar 8, 2013 at 19:15
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    @LittleBobbyTables Look more closely... that's not mustard... Mar 8, 2013 at 19:22
  • @andrew with tracking us I mean: tracking people's browsing habits via their like buttons (not just the activity here). thank you for your comment
    – caramba
    Mar 8, 2013 at 19:33
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    @AndrewBarber and it's definitely not mayo, either, because that stuff is disgusting
    – Geobits
    Mar 8, 2013 at 19:43
  • @Geobits Miracle Whip? (Be careful how you answer here; people who love and hate Miracle Whip are religious about their feelings on the matter) I recommend using the word "Yes" in your response, if you know what's good for you. Mar 8, 2013 at 19:44
  • @AndrewBarber god no. the only thing that should go on a sandwich(be it burger or no) is spicy brown mustard. let the religious frenzy begin ;)
    – Geobits
    Mar 8, 2013 at 20:04
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    @AndrewBarber Whip? Whip? And I voted for you, you bastard! This base betrayal will not stand, I say!....Oh well, at least you're not the next mod on Seasoned Advice. Also, this. Mar 8, 2013 at 20:10
  • @Geobits Oh, so it was mustard? Mar 8, 2013 at 20:14
  • @mikeTheLiar Yummy... cough Mar 8, 2013 at 20:15
  • @AndrewBarber umm, yea, let's go with that...
    – Geobits
    Mar 8, 2013 at 20:41

3 Answers 3

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Facebook collects information about people's browsing habits via their ubiquitous 'Like' buttons. Those buttons are served from Facebook's servers, giving them the means to collect that information.

Stack Overflow has no similar mechanism for tracking users, and likely no plans to implement one since that's not really its bailiwick.

If Facebook offered Stack Overflow information about the browsing habits of anyone who signed into Stack Overflow via Facebook, I doubt they'd turn it down, but Facebook probably doesn't share that information.

Obviously Stack Overflow has records of your browsing Stack Overflow, and could even do more analysis of your on-site browsing habits than you might realize, but there is no general tracking regardless of how you logged in.

If you're worried about tracking, OpenID (the login standard that SO uses) requires OpenID providers to know when you log in via them. There has been at least one suggestion to support a new system that avoids that, but it didn't get much traction.

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  • thank you for this answer. exactly the informations I was looking for
    – caramba
    Mar 8, 2013 at 19:35
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    "but Facebook probably doesn't share that information" ... for free.
    – endolith
    Mar 8, 2013 at 20:14
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Not sure what you mean by "tracking", but... No more than if you were logged in with Google or SE's own OpenID. When you log in, Facebook confirms you're the same person who created the account, gives us your email and profile image, and... That's it.

We don't post to your wall or read your responses or see where you're checking in or anything like that.

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    "We don't post on your wall...", thank goodness for that.
    – user7116
    Mar 8, 2013 at 19:15
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I think caramba is asking if Facebook can see what pages you visit, comment on, SO profile information etc. Such a feat is entirely possible through a cookie when you load any resource from facebook. But when you look at the requests your browser makes, you can clearly see where all the resources are being loaded from. I don't see any requests from Facebook, but I do see many from gravatar.com, the 3rd party service which provides most of the user profile pictures on SE.

Network tab inspection

But then again, I'm logged in through the StackExchange OpenID mechanism, not a facebook account. You would have to repeat such a test/inspection on an account which is logged in through facebook. As blahdiblah, it's usually the 'Like' buttons that get you on most other pages. I don't see any buttons and the 'share' links by each question and answer are really just permanent link locations, not the increasingly typical Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, Pork'd icon Smörgåsbords.

Regardless, even if SE went to such an extreme, you could block out any such tracking attempt by disabling 3rd party cookies. They're called 3rd party cookies because the 1st party is you, the 2nd party is the website you're talking to and the 3rd party is any outsider snooping agency, advertiser, etc. who tries to listen in.

This isn't a guarantee you can't be tracked. The SE server could, for instance, inform Facebook every time you visit a page and you would have no way of knowing about it. (Or they could log all activity and sell it to the highest bidder.) But as others have already said (or at least, <tinfoil-hat>claimed</tinfoil-hat>), SE does not do such a thing and has no plans to do such a thing.

But there's yet another facet to the debate that we're overlooking at that is you really have no privacy to speak of on an open community site like StackExchange. I, or in fact anyone, can already see pretty much everything you do here. The only solution to that would be to go incognito/private browsing mode, regularly wipe cookies and cache, never create an account or log in or contribute in any way. And even that wouldn't be enough to protect you from the most dedicated and skillful tracker (notably: law enforcement).

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