Facebook May Start Tracking Your Cursor

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The company is testing technology that could literally monitor and record your every move on its website. And at least one other company already does.

As if Facebook doesn’t raise enough privacy concerns, it now admits to testing a program that would track how you move your computer mouse.

The Wall Street Journal reports: “The social network may start collecting data on minute user interactions with its content, such as how long a user’s cursor hovers over a certain part of its website, or whether a user’s newsfeed is visible at a given moment on the screen of his or her mobile phone, Facebook analytics chief Ken Rudin said … during an interview.”

“Your scrolls, your hovers, your highlights, your right clicks: Facebook wants them all,” Ars Technica says.

This kind of data, called behavioral data, could be used for a wide range of purposes, including improving the way Facebook works and more precisely targeting users with certain ads, Rudin told the WSJ. The tracking is just part of a broader program the site is testing, and Facebook could make a decision on whether to keep collecting this kind of data in the next few months.

Given Facebook’s record and interests, it might not be surprising to hear it wants to track your cursor. But the WSJ says another business already does — Shutterstock, a stock photography website. “Shutterstock records literally everything that its users do on the site,” the WSJ says, using a system called Hadoop to analyze the activity. Facebook is using a modified version of the same system.

The amount of data Facebook gathers has been growing exponentially in the past four years. Its data analytics warehouse has grown 4,000 times over that period, “to a current level of 300 petabytes,” the Journal says.

A petabyte is more than 1 million gigabytes; a new consumer desktop computer these days might come with 500 gigabytes of storage.

Stacy Johnson

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