Facebook Complains About German Sites Changing Functionality Of 'Like' Button To Comply With Law

from the who's-more-powerful? dept

Who's more powerful when it comes to determining how social voting functionality works in Germany? The government or Facebook? You may recall a few weeks ago there were reports of a German official effectively banning the Facebook "like" button on third party sites as a privacy violation. While it doesn't say it's officially in response to this, the German news site Heise implemented a neat little workaround, in which you have to first click on the icon to "activate" it, and then you can click the "like" (Google translation of the original German). Under this system, the "like" button isn't loaded until a user clicks on it, thus there's no issue of Facebook automatically tracking folks via the button.

It probably generates a lot less usage, but as a kludgey workaround, it's fairly clever. Apparently the setup attracted lots of interest, with hundreds of other sites contacting Heise to find out how they did it. The fact that users who are actually worried could just block Facebook from loading on third party sites doesn't seem to occur to anyone. But here's where the story gets odd. According to Slashdot, where we first spotted this story, Facebook is upset about this (Google translation from the original German). While there appears to be some confusion, Facebook may have initially threatened to block Heise's usage, but later said it was okay, but "not ideal."

Of course, given the statements by the German officials saying that the regular button violated privacy laws, shouldn't Facebook be happy that some users have been figuring out workarounds to let the button continue working? It seems like a bad strategic move to complain about the company who may have figured out a way to keep the "like" button on many sites that might have otherwise removed it.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Cynyr (profile), Sep 6th, 2011 @ 4:38am

    A nice way to block facebook on third party sites?

    Anyone have an example of how to do the mentioned blocking of facebook only while not on facebook in Chrome?

    I can find how to block facebook completely, or how to install a firefox addon, but not how to do it network wide, or computer wide, or per account (regardless of browser). I assume most of these would require running a transparent proxy and rewriting the pages.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Aerilus, Sep 6th, 2011 @ 4:42am

    Don't give mice cookies

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2011 @ 4:46am

    The "like" button only still-works in this case if positive votes are what matters. I submit that knowing how many people visit a site but don't "like" it is also meaningful, maybe more so.

    Previously, Facebook would get something like "500 loads, 35 likes." Now they'll get "35 loads, 35 likes." It becomes a significantly less useful measure.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2011 @ 6:05am

    Re: A nice way to block facebook on third party sites?

    Parental control in your router.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    merethan, Sep 6th, 2011 @ 6:05am

    Statistics pollution?

    Maybe they're upset about this because it ruins their statistics and analysis algorithms. Apparently it isn't so interesting to know how much people "like" or "+1" it, but how much in comparison to those who not care a bit.
    After all, who's gonna activate the button only to not click it?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2011 @ 6:07am

    Re: A nice way to block facebook on third party sites?

    There's a firefox addon named RequestPolicy. It works nicely, in combination with NoScript it gives you full control over what you want to allow.
    It can be a PITA at times though when you want to see something and have to figure out before what you need to allow to make it work (videos often come from a different site, the player from that site has a different address than the video and needs to be allowed to load the video)

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    martin, Sep 6th, 2011 @ 6:10am

    Of course facebook is p***ed about the 2-click button because they cannot track your movements anymore. When every site you visit loads a facebook icon, they already know where you were before you even sign up.

    With the 2-click-solution they only really get the clicks they are advertising. Thats why their only way to complain is "using their API in a non-certified way"

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Dan, Sep 6th, 2011 @ 6:57am

    Re: A nice way to block facebook on third party sites?

    These Adblock Plus rules do the trick

    ||facebook.com/*$domain=~facebook.com|~facebook.net|~fbcdn.com|~fbcdn.net
    ||facebook.net/* $domain=~facebook.com|~facebook.net|~fbcdn.com|~fbcdn.net
    ||fbcdn.com/*$domain=~facebook.com|~faceb ook.net|~fbcdn.com|~fbcdn.net
    ||fbcdn.net/*$domain=~facebook.com|~facebook.net|~fbcdn.com|~fbcdn.ne t

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2011 @ 7:28am

    Re:

    Yup! Facebook just admitted what their true value of the like button is, the ability to track your movements.

    Another reason I don't have a facebook account.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2011 @ 7:37am

    Re: Re:

    I think you're reading too much into this. History tracking etc is a big red-button issue these days, but find it more likely that Facebook is more upset that this "work-around" mucks with their statistics than whether Tom Anderson goes to Wired.com for news or shops at Amazon. You aren't that important.

     

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  11.  
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    The eejit (profile), Sep 6th, 2011 @ 8:01am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Facebook is designed to sell information. I have a FB account that I don't use.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2011 @ 8:37am

    Re:

    Ah, yes. The vammmmpires.

     

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  13.  
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    Brendan (profile), Sep 6th, 2011 @ 10:04am

    Re:

    Tough shit. The site in question can still track that themselves if they want to. Facebook doesn't deserve it.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2011 @ 10:08am

    Re: Re:

    I didn't say anything about "deserves."

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2011 @ 10:14am

    Re: A nice way to block facebook on third party sites?

    Put their domain name to point to 127.0.0.1 on your hosts file.

    How to block websites using the HOSTS file - YouTube
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJphZaLk1FQ

    http://www.overclock.net/faqs/44143-how-use-h osts-file-block-websites.html

    You can also use Privoxy to do it.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2011 @ 10:16am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Care to explain how that happens?

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2011 @ 10:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Explain how what happens?

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    chris, Sep 6th, 2011 @ 10:52am

    Use the Stick

    With Facebook’s weight, they could just threaten to pull out of Germany altogether, and doing anything but complying with their demands would be political suicide.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2011 @ 3:39pm

    "With Facebook’s weight, they could just threaten to pull out of Germany altogether, and doing anything but complying with their demands would be political suicide."

    You have absolutely no idea how much I would rejoice if they actually did that. FB has a tough time in Germany, with great competiton from StudiVZ. If, pulling out of Germany would be suicide for FB. And I would love that. Yes, I do hate FB with a passion from the bottom of my heart.

     

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  20.  
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    Cynyr (profile), Sep 6th, 2011 @ 4:42pm

    Re: Re: A nice way to block facebook on third party sites?

    Sorry all, blocking all of Facebook will not work for me (will not pass the wife test)

    I was hoping to repeat the hiese trick and simply make the button a 2click process site wide in my home. All of the above suggestions are either all or nothing, or would need to be done at each computer and each browser.

    Shame that this stuff is so hard to deal with in a useful way.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2011 @ 8:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    How it "mucks" their statistics.

    Because I can't see it.
    If nothing else it makes their statistics look better at least better then have no data at all.

    If you don't have the button on the website you get no data, if it needs to be activated you get some data, it just won't be automated.

     

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  22.  
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    techflaws.org (profile), Sep 6th, 2011 @ 10:16pm

    Re: Use the Stick

    Yeah, right. Because Germans depend so much on it and don't have other social networks like StudiVZ (not that I would join either).

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 7th, 2011 @ 3:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Some data is only better than no data if it's useful data. If they see that 100% of the people who loaded the Like button clicked on the Like button... well, that doesn't tell them anything at all. Effectively, they're going from a position where they HAVE meaningful statistics to a situation where they don't. And it's worse (from their perspective) than people not-having the button because no one else notices a difference. If the German courts nixed Like buttons on privacy grounds and they went away, then people who wanted Like buttons would fight on Facebook's side to get them back. With this work around, you can still have it if you want it, it's just inconvenient.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 7th, 2011 @ 7:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    We do have a flare for the dramatic don't we?

    No meaningful data? that is a bit of an exaggeration, they still collect data from all the people who click on that button on purpose.

    They just won't know anymore how many times that page was loaded and nobody clicked on the button, which means they don't get to monitor others websites traffic and leverage that to their advantage which may be a good thing and more importantly they don't get to correlate that data from IP's to see where people are going inside Germany only, but they still get to look and correlate that data to people visiting websites in the rest of the world.

    They still get:

    - How many people are coming from that page.
    - Who those people are.
    - And if they get to another page in Germany they get to fallow those people around in Germany and continue to be able to fallow them if they access any other website outside Germany.

    About the like buttons, I don't know anyone who cares about them, it may be anecdotal data but my impression is that not many would fight for those, specially when people start to think about them as webpage-tracking-bugs, instead of the innocuous "like button" title currently used..

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 7th, 2011 @ 7:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    People should install Ghostery that informs people every time they surf what is tracking them online.

    http://www.ghostery.com/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 7th, 2011 @ 7:14am

    Re: Re: Re: A nice way to block facebook on third party sites?

    You could use TOR then, they can collect all the data they want it won't matter,

    Also you can look into "application firewalls"(e.g. L7-Filter in Linux or Any modern firewall for Windows) and see if they meet your requirements.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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