Nate Weiner

This is an old archived post from my former blog The Idea Shower. It's where I cataloged my product explorations and releases, one of which ultimately became Pocket.

This post was published back in 2007. It may not function as originally intended or may be missing images.

Block Facebook Beacon

November 07, 2007

So here I am, burning some brain cells and taking some time to relax playing a game on Kongregate, when a little window pops up in the corner of my screen and says "Kongregate is sending this to your Facebook profile: Nate played Desktop Tower Defense 1.5 at Kongregate." Which immediately elicited a "Hellll no" from my mouth.

Maybe what shocked me was the way it was worded, essentially saying that Kongregate was sending the data without even asking my permission (even though there is a 'No Thanks' button in the corner) but needless to say, I was not too thrilled about my surfing habits showing up on my Facebook profile.

So I clicked 'No Thanks', and hopped over to Facebook and looked at the privacy settings for this new program. And found they give you the options of choosing 'allow', 'notify me', or 'never'.

The problem however is, that even though you can choose whether or not it is made public that you visited these sites, Facebook still has the data regardless of your privacy settings. Now I don't mean to sound like I'm tin-foil-hat-wearing paranoid, but that does seem to encroach a little past what Facebook's role in my life should be.

I want Facebook to sit still and let me check out how many of my friends enjoy the movie Sleepover and look at pictures of people I didn't like in High School. I don't need Facebook extrapolating data about me as I go about my business on the web.

For those of you that don't know, this is part of Facebook's new advertising platform. Don't get me wrong, I actually think Facebook's new Beacon system is a great idea and a powerful tool for online advertisers. It is a great way to allow users to add more about their lives to their profiles. Unfortunately, it's being done in a 'you can opt-out' manner, when it should be 'you can opt-in'.

As this gets rolled out to more and more sites, the potential for this being taken advantage of is pretty high. Because each site in the program will send requests to Facebook each time you arrive, which in-turn would allow Facebook to catalog a good chunk of the sites that you are surfing.

So the easiest thing to do is just block it. I peaked at the javascript that controls the communication between the used site and Facebook and see that it's quite easy to prevent the communication. (This assumes you use Firefox. If you don't, just look around for ways to block specific pages in your browser):

  1. Download and Install the BlockSite plugin for Firefox.
  2. After restarting Firefox select 'Add-ons' from the Tools menu.
  3. Click the 'Options' button on the BlockSite extension
  4. Click the 'Add' button
  5. Enter http://** into the input box
  6. Click 'OK'
  7. Click 'OK' again and you are good to go.

If you look at the javascript that is used to make requests to Facebook, you will see that the requests are made to so by blocking just the beacon folder, you are preventing the site from sending requests to Facebook without blocking the rest of Facebook.

Update: As someone anonymously noted below, you should block both and, you can do that by replacing 'www.' with the wildcard character '*' (see step 5 updated above)

Other Browsers

Commenters below have suggested ways to block Facebook Beacon in other browser's, none of these have been tested by me, but here they are for your use: Follow Up: Two weeks after this post, I've written a follow-up about the response. Facebook Beacon - Two Weeks Later