Following f8, there has been a new explosion of discussion around Facebook’s voracious data gathering. For instance, Facebook keeps cookies on your machine even when you are logged out which allows them at least in principle to track your visits to sites with Facebook social plugins. Add to that the Ticker, which is really just Beacon redux with better timing and some semblance of an opt-in, and you have a ton of data on your activities on the web flowing to Facebook. Since I have been bothered by this for some time, I have come up with a setup that makes me feel more in control.
Before describing the setup, I should point out that I don’t really use Facebook actively other than (a) to sign into some sites that require it (eg canv.as) and (b) respond to the occasional Facebook message from a friend. I am happy to use individual services which together work better for me than Facebook (Tumblr, Twitter, Foursquare, Kik - it is not by accident that USV is an investor in these). So if you are a super active user of Facebook, the following may not really work for you.
First, I periodically visit the settings page in Facebook and make sure that I am opted out of features such as instant personalization or letting people automatically add stuff to my profile through tagging. I do this periodically because as Facebook’s service evolves they are changing the settings accordingly (this is not a criticism, simply a statement of fact and over time they have actually simplified the controls). Second, I use multiple browsers. I use Chrome as my workhorse and have gmail, gcal, twitter, tumblr open in it at all times. I use Firefox for most of the services that I try out and this is where I tend to be logged into Facebook. Finally, I use Safari in private mode and have cleared all cookies. Any and all personal browsing and transactions take place through Safari.
While this may seem like overkill, I find that it not only lets me be less concerned about Facebook’s data gathering but also I wind up having just enough tabs open in each browser that I can readily navigate. On the Mac, Alt Tab switching makes going back and forth between the three a breeze. The only occasional hold up occurs if I run across a URL in one browser that I want in another which then requires a quick copy and paste.