Occasionally, we’ve all been guilty of a little “Facebook stalking.” We can view the public profiles of others (or whatever elements are public), sifting through their photos, status updates, and more. It feels like peeking into someone’s private life just a bit; the modern equivalent of spying on a neighbour over the fence. This Facebook stalking can be quite entertaining---and no doubt it satisfies the detective in us in some instances.
But there’s a blissful anonymity when browsing Facebook. Whether you’re continually checking in on an ex, or simply finding yourself lost in the profiles of strangers (a friend of a friend of a friend), it is nice knowing that you can continue this habit without being caught.
Or can you?
What if there was a tool that revealed your profile viewing habits to the public, or even just to the person you’re spying on?
You’ve likely seen one of the many websites and apps out there which claim to do just that. “See who is stalking you,” they claim. “Find out who’s viewing you!” These apps purportedly give people the opportunity to see who most frequently views their Facebook profile, naming and shaming. If such tools work effectively, this is alarming. It means the end of anonymous Facebook stalking, and honestly, it may turn Facebook into a very different type of social network.
Fortunately (or perhaps, unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint), there is no way to see who viewed your Facebook profile. Though these apps continue to appear in droves, they definitely do not work, and Facebook has confirmed that this is the case.
For some of you, this means you can Facebook stalk with immunity. On the other hand, if you’re worried about strangers or unwanted persons checking up on you, however, it’s best to set your privacy settings to their most secure.
So, if these tools don’t serve their supposed purpose, what are these websites and apps really up to?
The Hidden Purpose of “See-Who-Viewed-Your-Profile” Apps
It should come as no surprise that these apps exist----and that many, many people fall for their promises. After all, we as humans are innately curious. Who wouldn’t want to see who was regularly checking out their Facebook profile? It could show you if you have a secret admirer, an envious friend, or an ex that just can’t seem to get over you. Knowing this, such apps and tools appear over and over, luring us in with promises of revealing this hidden data.
But since we already know they don’t work, what is it that they are really doing?
Generally, it isn’t so good. Most of the time, these apps are sketchily gathering some of your personal data. It’s not purely nefarious, and typically isn’t aiming to gather your financial details or anything, but instead, the third-party app is trying to capture advertising data and the like, and likely sending you spam. In some instances, these apps may be more malicious, infecting your devices with malware.
In any event, these apps are nothing but a scam. There is no way to circumvent the restrictions that Facebook has surrounding this confidential data. Although Facebook certainly has had some data and security issues cropping up in the past few years, revealing your private activity to other users, fortunately, isn’t one of them.
If you’ve already granted permission to an app like this, you can revoke it now to avoid any potential issues. See: How to Revoke Facebook App Permissions. Facebook also asks that report these kinds of apps to them if you spot them.
What Facebook DOES Track
Despite not showing your profile views to users, Facebook does, in fact, track a great deal of information. You agree to this data collection when you sign up to use the platform, by the way, but have you ever stopped to investigate what is really being tracked?
If you want a blow-by-blow, Facebook is required----because of GDPR regulations----to provide you with an archive of all of your data. But for most of us, this won’t be necessary.
Mostly, Facebook tracks our demographics and interests for advertising purposes. (No wonder we’re seeing such incredibly targeted advertisements on our feeds). For a bit more detail on the personal data Facebook mines, you can read this article.
Viewing Your Activity & Friendships
Facebook does track and aggregate some of your data in a way that can be helpful to you as a user. For instance, your Activity Log displays all of your recent (public) activity on the platform. This shows you things like what photos you’ve recently liked or commented on, places you’ve “checked into” and more. This section is searchable, too, so you can find past activity you may be looking for.
Facebook also shows pairs of users their friendship history. When you’re on a friend’s Facebook profile, you can click the button with three dots (found along the bottom right of their header photo when on a desktop). A drop-down menu will appear and you can choose View Friendship. This will show you photos you’re both tagged in together as well as notable wall posts, etc. It’s a great way to reminisce about your friendship and look back over your years on Facebook. It might be one of Facebook’s more wholesome features.
Ultimately, it seems that Facebook has our profile views (both incoming and outgoing) locked down tight. For now, you can Facebook stalk with ease. But beware of those oh-so-tempting apps that promise you hidden information. Remember, these apps and websites don’t work, and in all likelihood, they are stealing your data or even infecting you with malware. It’s always best to proceed with caution when dealing with any third-party apps on Facebook.Do you wish you could find out who is checking out your profile?