That 'Like' Button Is Tracking You
But Facebook and other companies claim it's an unintentional side effect
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2011 7:24 AM CDT
The Facebook 'Like' button ... as it appears on a Newser story about a couple who named their child after it. How meta.   (

(Newser) – Those ubiquitous “Like” buttons are a convenient way to quickly share hilarious videos and buzzed-about articles with all your Facebook friends—but they’re also a convenient way for Facebook to track you, the Wall Street Journal reveals. Facebook’s “Like,” Twitter’s “Tweet," and other social widgets allow their creators to collect information about the websites people visit—even if the buttons are not actually clicked, a Journal study shows. You only have to log in to your Twitter or Facebook account once in the past month for Twitter or Facebook to know your browsing habits.

Regardless of whether you’ve closed your browser or even turned off your computer, the sites will keep collecting data about where you go on the Web until you actually log out of your Facebook or Twitter account, the study finds. Widget makers offer an explanation: For you to see which of your friends like, say, an article you're reading, the widget has to know your identity. Of course, Facebook, Twitter, and Google (which has a widget for its Buzz social networking service) insist they’re not using the data compiled to track users and delete the information “quickly” (Twitter), within two weeks (Google), or within 90 days (Facebook). (Click to read about the couple who named their kid after Facebook's "Like.")