Last week, Facebook announced social plugins — tools that export data about Facebook users to participating websites across the Internet.To see the plugins in action, log in to Facebook and then go to Yelp. You should see a Facebook notification drop-down from the top of your browser, telling you: “Yelp is using Facebook to personalise your experience.”
Navigating around Yelp, you’ll see some of your friends faces here and there, along with their content recommendations.
It’s an opt-out experience, and this freaks out some users.
Facebook wrote a big post explaining the news on its official blog. The main gist Facebook wants to get across is that “The plugins were designed so that the website you are visiting receives none of this information.”
“These plugins should be seen as an extension of Facebook.”
Here’s the whole post:
by Austin Haugen on Monday, April 26, 2010 at 2:17pm
We’ve had an amazing response to our announcements from last week as more and more people engage with social and personalised experiences on other websites and services. We’ve also heard many questions and wanted to answer the most common ones here to explain in more detail how a new set of tools—called social plugins—work.
Using social plugins, websites everywhere can give you more ways to experience the web with your friends—from letting you form connections on these sites with your favourite movies or restaurants to showing you the most popular content based on what is being shared among your friends. Rather than seeing popular stories, products or reviews from people you don’t know, you’ll now see content that matters to you the most—from your friends—prominently displayed.
These new plugins, introduced on more than 75 sites and services last week, offer you the same control over what you can see and what you can share as you already have on Facebook. Our highest priority is to keep and build the trust of the more than 400 million people who use our service every month. To do so, we’ve developed powerful tools to give people control over what information they want to share, when they want to share it and with whom.
What are social plugins?
Social plugins are simple tools that can be “dropped” into any website to provide people with personalised and social experiences. As we announced previously, you will start noticing these new tools on other websites in a few different formats:
- “Like” or “Recommend” buttons: Click to publicly share and connect with content you find interesting.
Activity Feed: What your friends are liking, commenting on or sharing on a site.
Recommendations: Most liked content among your friends on a site.
How do the plugins work?
While these buttons and boxes appear on other websites, the content populating them comes directly from Facebook. The plugins were designed so that the website you are visiting receives none of this information. These plugins should be seen as an extension of Facebook.
You only see a personalised experience with your friends if you are logged into your Facebook account. If you are not already logged in, you will be prompted to log in to Facebook before you can use a plugin on another site.
At a technical level, social plugins work when external websites put an iframe from Facebook.com on their site—as if they were agreeing to give Facebook some real estate on their website. If you are logged into Facebook, the Facebook iframe can recognise you and show personalised content within the plugin as if the visitor were on Facebook.com directly. Even though the iframe is not on Facebook, it is designed with all the privacy protections as if it were.
What information about me does Facebook share with the websites hosting social plugins?
None of your information—your name or profile information, what you like, who your friends are, what they have liked, what they recommend—is shared with the sites you visit with a plugin. Because they have given Facebook this “real estate” on their sites, they do not receive or interact with the information that is contained or transmitted there. Similarly, no personal information about your actions is provided to advertisers on Facebook.com or on the other site.
How do I recognise a Facebook social plugin on another site?
You’ll recognise them by the branding in the footer that resembles similar features on Facebook—the “f” icon is next to the phrase, “Facebook social plugin.” The phrase is a hyperlink to a landing page describing the product.
What am I sharing when I click a Like or Recommend button on external websites?
The Like and Recommend buttons on other sites work in a similar way to the “Share” buttons from Facebook and other services that you’ve likely seen on the web for years. These buttons enable you to publicly express your interest in some piece of content with a simple action, similar to how you might rate a restaurant or movie on a site today. Nothing happens unless you choose to click the buttons, and you must be logged into Facebook before you can use them.
When you click “Like” or “Recommend,” the button turns darker to indicate that you like or recommend something and are making a public connection to it. Back on Facebook, a story will post to your profile and may appear in your friends’ News Feeds in the same way as if you had liked something on Facebook. You can click “Like” again if you wish to remove the like.
Your likes and recommendations also may appear to your friends on the website where you clicked the button and elsewhere through other Facebook social plugins appearing on websites—such as Activity Feed or Recommendations. Some sites may also give you the option to add a comment when you like or recommend something.
In some cases, when you create a connection to a real-world entity, such as a book, movie or athlete, your likes and recommendations become a part of your profile in the same way as the connections you make with Pages on Facebook. They will appear in your “Likes and Interests” section of your profile, and you may receive updates from that connection in News Feed.
For more examples of how the Like buttons and other social plugins work on different sites, read our previous blog post.
Will people beyond my friends see what I like or recommend?
Yes, you should consider the likes and recommendations you choose to make to be public information, much like when you comment or write a review on any website today or connect with a public Facebook Page. Based on feedback we’ve received, though, we are updating the social plugins we announced last week—Like, Activity Feed and Recommendations—to only display your friends’ names and profile pictures and to show the likes and recommendations from people who aren’t your friends in an aggregated format (“10 people like this”).
When a like makes a connection in your profile, you can control who can see that in your Facebook profile by editing your “Friends, Tags and Connections” settings on your Privacy Settings page. Remember that even if you limit the visibility of a connection, it remains as public information and may appear in other places on Facebook.com or be accessed by applications and websites.
Depending on the connection you made, you can remove a connection completely either by going to the “Info” tab of your profile and editing your “Likes and Interests,” or by returning to the web page where you liked something and unliking it.
Why do some of the things I like from other websites appear in my “Likes and Interests” section of my profile, while others don’t?
Social plugins are a common set of tools from Facebook to bring social and personalised experiences to other websites you visit. However, each website may choose to implement them in different ways.
In some cases, your likes and recommendations become a part of your profile in the “Info” tab in the same way as the connections you make with Pages on Facebook. This occurs when you like or recommend a real-world entity, such as a book, movie or athlete, where it makes more sense to form a lasting relationship.
Why do I see some of my friends’ names and thumbnails of their profile pictures on other sites?
Social plugins personalise your experience on others sites based on your Facebook friends. When one of your friends has chosen to like or recommend something on a site and you are logged into Facebook, you may see that fact appear along with a small thumbnail of your friend’s profile picture.
This is personalised just for you. Every Facebook user who comes to a site will have a different, personalised experience based on who they are friends with on Facebook. This is similar to how your home page on Facebook.com works, where you see a News Feed unique to your network of friends.
Are there any new privacy controls for social plugins?
These new features follow the same privacy settings as those we already had in place on Facebook. For example, you can control how information is shared on Facebook.com on your Privacy Settings page under “Posts by Me,” and you can change which connections are visible on your profile under “Things I Like.” For both, you can set controls to “Everyone,” “Friends and Networks,” “Friends of Friends,” “Only Friends,” or “customise” to use Friend Lists or to include or exclude specific people.
Remember that, even if you change your settings for what is shared or shown on Facebook, likes and recommendations made on other sites become publicly available information, similar to a public comment on a website. Only click the Like or Recommend buttons if you want to share your likes and recommendations publicly.
How is this different from the “Log in with Facebook” or “Connect” features I see across the Web?
If you want to interact more deeply with a website, on some sites you’ll see ways to login or sign in to that site using your Facebook information. This capability has been available since July 2008 and was previously called Facebook Connect. It provides you with ways to share your information with other websites and find your friends. In these cases, you are establishing a relationship directly with these websites and sharing your information with them after you choose to sign in; this includes your data from social plugins.
Why does a blue bar appear on some sites telling me it’s being personalised by Facebook?
Separate from our social plugins, we have established a small pilot program with an exclusive set of partners—Microsoft Docs.com, Pandora and Yelp—to offer personalised experiences as soon as you visit those services. These partners have been given access to public information on Facebook—such as names, friend lists and interests and likes—to personalise your experience when you’re logged into Facebook and visit their sites.
When you first visit any of these three partner sites while logged into Facebook, you’ll see a blue bar appear at the top of the site letting you know that your experience is being personalised. You can learn more about it, remove the personalised experience or click “x” to remove the bar. If you don’t want your experience personalised on this limited number of sites, you can opt out by going to “Application and Websites” on your Privacy Settings page and editing the “Instant personalisation” setting.
These partners were carefully chosen, reviewed and are contractually required to respect people’s privacy preferences. Additionally, they are required to provide an easy and prominent method for opting out directly from their website and to delete data if people choose to opt out.
We hope you’ll give these new social and personalised experiences a try to see what’s possible when you’re friends are with you on the web.
Austin, a Facebook product manager, is helping you bring your friends with you around the web.
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