The data collected by the Mozilla browser extension will be used by investigative journalists to study the empire’s network of Facebook user tracking.
Mozilla launches a new project tasked with tracking Facebook each time it tracks user activity and collects valuable data. Meta-formerly known as Facebook-uses a Facebook Pixel tool, which can be embedded in a website, to track a user’s online browsing activity and to measure the effectiveness of an ad campaign. It is said to be able to collect web browsing data of users without a Facebook account.
The Facebook Pixel-which exists as a few lines of code-is widely used by businesses with different scales around the world for analyzing parameters such as ad conversion and website traffic. However, it has also been abused, and even Meta has only recently been discovered lied about its data collection promises. Meta is not a fan of sharing the data it collects for research purposes, especially those looking at the impact of its social media platforms. Some company executives are even trying to hijack CrowdTangle, a tool widely used by journalists and researchers to study the spread of Facebook content.
As part of its Rally efforts, Mozilla and The Markup there launch ‘ a study aimed at looking at how the Facebook Pixel network works by doing an in-depth analysis of type of data it yields, and how to share it. To do this, Mozilla has made a Rally browser extension available now for Firefox users in the US, though there are plans to port it to other browsers as well. Mozilla noted that the data collected at Rally will only be used for investigative journalism and research, and will not be shared with third parties.
Join the Facebook Pixel Hunt
The browser extension will collect the same data retrieved by Meta using its Facebook Pixel network. Those who signed up for the study will also share data such as web page URLs, time spent browsing, presence of Facebook cookies, metadata of visited URLs, the full URL of each web page, and even how far users scroll a web page. Before the alarms sounded, Mozilla assured that the collected data would be de-identifiable, meaning that all web browsing information would be anonymous and shared in a compiled form.
If that’s familiar, because Apple now allows large pocket clients such as Snapchat and Facebook to collect user data, but only if it is anonymous and grouped, and cannot be tracked by each user. Data harvesting is normal, but Apple allows these companies to collect user data even if users refuse them permission to do so, following Apple’s release of anti-tracking prompts to update to iOS 14.5. while Mozilla collects anonymous data as part of the Rally research, it also ensures that all data agreed by participants to be shared is encrypted before it leaves the browser, and can only be decrypted when it reaches a secure server that provides a secure environment without internet.
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