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Facebook Admits to Tracking People Who Don’t Use Facebook, Blames a Bug

 

Facebook has admitted it tracks some non-users—but says it’s only a bug and that a fix is underway.

At the end of March, Belgian researchers reported that Facebook drops a long-lasting cookie onto your machine, tracking you across pages with its social plugins, even if you’ve opted into a do-not-track system or aren’t a registered user of the site. At the time, Facebook said the report was inaccurate, though it would not say which specific aspects were incorrect.

This week Facebook issued a more detailed response under the headline “setting the record straight,” with Facebook’s vice president of policy in Europe, Richard Allan, saying the Belgian report “gets it wrong multiple times.”

However, he does admit that its social plugins add tracking cookies to some people’s computers even if they’re not Facebook users, one of the central claims of the report, saying it was an unintended “bug.”

“Our practice is not to place cookies on the browsers of people who have visited sites with Social Plugins but who have never visited Facebook.com to sign up for an account,” Allan said. “The authors identified a few instances when cookies may have been placed, and we began to address those inadvertent cases as soon as they were brought to our attention.”

Allan goes on to debunk claims about Facebook—though some aren’t actually accusations that were made by the Belgian researchers, from the University of Leuven and Vrije Universiteit Brussels.

 

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