Facebook Accused of Injecting ‘Hidden Tracking Codes’ In Your Photos
A cyber researcher is making claims that Facebook tracks user images. In short, Edin Jusupovic, an Australian resident, is alleging that the social media giant injects code into your photos and can track them infinitely. He also claims that Facebook hides the activity, so users are never aware that their family photos are tracked. If the allegations are true, this means Facebook tracks our photos well beyond the Facebook newsfeed. By injecting tracking code into images, the tracking of the image goes beyond just Facebook’s feed and profile ecosystem.
“Facebook is embedding tracking data inside photos you download,” Jusupovic stated on hist Twitter account where he broke the news. He added that he “noticed a structural abnormality when looking at a hex dump of an image file from an unknown origin only to discover it contained what I now understand is an IPTC special instruction.”
He posted the hex dump findings on his Twitter. You can view it below.
#facebook is embedding tracking data inside photos you download.
I noticed a structural abnormality when looking at a hex dump of an image file from an unknown origin only to discover it contained what I now understand is an IPTC special instruction. Shocking level of tracking.. pic.twitter.com/WC1u7Zh5gN
— Edin Jusupovic (@oasace) July 11, 2019
Here’s the same image pulled from Twitter.
He says “the take from this is that they can potentially track photos outside of their own platform with a disturbing level of precision about who originally uploaded the photo (and much more).”
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If you are asking yourself how this is possible, you probably aren’t alone. The short answer is that such tracking techniques have long been deployed as a way to help image copyright owners locate their stolen images. But in Facebook’s case, they don’t own a copyright to the image. Most likely, the image tracking helps Facebook target users with ads.
If Facebook can understand which images you and your friends share on the web, they can retarget you with more precise ad campaigns.
Jusupovic classifies his findings as a “shocking level of tracking.”
Jusupovic says that Facebook can now watermark images inside the image metadata and gain access in the future.
The tracking injections allow Facebook to associate one user with another. Imagine that you upload a meme, or a picture of a sunset, according to Jusupovic, that are now tracked. When other users upload similar photos or the same photos, the Facebook algorithm can link you by interests. Hence, they can deploy similar type ads to all of you.
How long Facebook’s potential image tracking has been live remains unclear. Some believe it may have begun in 2016. There are currently no legitimate sources identifying an exact or estimated timeline. But it is possible that your family photos are tracked, even the ones you’ve redownloaded to your computer. This means that someday when you repost them anywhere online, Facebook may know.
So in a sense, if the allegations are true, the damage would be incomprehensible. This is yet another privacy tragedy by Big Tech. And it isn’t clear if this latest incident will warrant further scrutiny into Facebook and the likes.
As we usher in a technological version of 1984, Facebook continues to increase it’s aggressiveness in an egregious data collection and citizen surveil space. It doesn’t appear they have any plan to reverse course, even with Congress breathing down their necks. But worse more, people seem less and less likely to abort the Facebook ship. Although it should be mentioned, outlier social media networks such as Mewe.com are growing. But not as fast as needed to interrupt Facebook’s monopoly.
Author: Jim Satney
PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.