App of the Week
You may not know this, but when you visit a non-Facebook property, Facebook may know that you’ve made that visit. If the site uses a Facebook widget–for comments, a Like button, etc.–then that widget may have access to the same browser cookies that identify you while you’re visiting Facebook.com. That may be true even if you’re logged out.1
After reading that post linked above, I finally decided to do something about limiting my exposure while using Facebook on my Mac. The first thing that I did was pay for, download, and install Fluid [Website; $5], an application that lets you create a site-specific browser (a “Fluid App”) for any website. You can use the app for free, but paying for a license allows you to create Fluid Apps with separate cookie storage, among other features.
Within minutes I had created a Fluid App for Facebook; I named it “Facebook” and it has a custom icon using Facebook.com’s favicon that’s even badged with the number of notifications I have waiting. What’s very cool is that I can restrict my browsing in this Fluid App to only facebook.com–clicks on other links will open in my regular browser. With this “whitelist” feature and the separate cookie storage, I can completely segregate my Facebook usage to this one app.
But what about links to Facebook from other applications, like Mail? When clicked, those would take me to my regular browser and could recreate the Facebook cookies I’d deleted there. For that problem, I took a look at a utility I’d briefly used a few years back.
Choosy [Website; $12] is billed as “a smarter default browser for Mac OS X”; in reality what it does is allow you to dictate what happens when you click a web link anywhere on your Mac. It can prompt you to choose a browser each time or only when no browser is running. More importantly for me, it allows you to set rules for how and when these prompts occur; for example, you might open the link in a specific browser when a modifier key is pressed or when the URL is in a certain domain.
Again, it took only a short amount of time to create a rule that always opens Facebook links in my Fluid App, no prompt required. Now, by using both Fluid and Choosy, I’m able to restrict all of my Facebook usage to a single browser.
Perhaps you are not as concerned as I am about Facebook, but the same setup can be used to sandbox browsing of your bank’s website or any other site where you would like enhanced security or privacy.
This is an old post. And Facebook says it fixed the logout issue. But it can track you if you’ve not loged out and, given it’s track record on privacy issues, I don’t trust Facebook one bit. ↩