How much can one actually trust a social networking site? Offering many personal details to sign up, one can never be entirely sure just who has access to your information or indeed what level of privacy one may enjoy. Of course, while privacy watchdogs are pushing for greater control to be wrested into the hands of the users, over the past couple of years, it has increasingly been known that both social networking sites as well as search engines offer user details to advertisers. This has been tried to be curbed, but there is still a lot that both users and watchdogs may not know about.
One such thing that was admitted by the largest social networking site, Facebook, was that the site was automatically adding "Likes", the system by which users show their approval for something, without the users even doing so.
The site admitted that it added "Likes" to websites on behalf of users who may not have even "Liked" it in the first place or indeed visited the website in question. According to a research done by a US security analyst, Facebook managed to produce the "Likes" in very simple ways; for example, if users were to send a web address to each other’s inboxes, this would automatically add two "Likes" to the page while commenting upon the page within Facebook would also add a "Like".
Responding to this revelation, Facebook said while admitting to adding the unclicked "Likes" that no user information was shared and that privacy was maintained. "When the count (number of "Likes" on a page) is increased via page shares, no user information is exchanged. We did recently find a bug with our social plug-ins where at times the count for the Share or Like goes up by two, and we are working on fix to solve the issue now.”
Facebook explained that the number of "Likes" did not necessarily reflect the number of times that users had actually liked a page, but indeed the number of times the page had been shared. But the "Like" counter that often appears on a page does not reflect this, as to users it simply appears as the number of times a page has been liked and this is particularly what analysts are criticizing Facebook for, calling it “Like fraud.” One analyst, Prof. Alan Woodward of the University of Surrey described it as “disturbing,” saying, "Something intended for one purpose is being used for something completely different," adding, "What else is being done automatically that we don't know about?"