Two clicks for more privacy
by Jürgen Schmidt
More and more web pages incorporate "Like" buttons for Facebook, Google+ and Twitter and this was also on the to do list for both The H and our associates at heise online; however, implementing these buttons means that data will be transmitted to the operators of a networking platform when the page is loaded – without any user interaction. In addition to the URL of the current page, that information also includes an ID that is directly connected to a person, at least if the user has an account with these platforms. This allows companies such as Facebook to create full browsing profiles of their users. As this doesn't harmonise with our idea of data protection and privacy, heise online developed a two-stage solution that will only transmit data with the user's permission.
The concept is simple. By default, The H embeds disabled buttons that don't make contact with the servers of platforms such as Facebook. Only once the user agrees to communicate with Facebook, Google or Twitter by enabling the buttons will they become active and establish a connection. Users can then transmit their recommendation with a second click. If they are already logged into their chosen social network, Facebook and Google+ will process their input without displaying a further window. For Twitter, a pop-up window allows users to edit their tweet before publishing it.
This way, clicking on one of the buttons indicates that the user agrees to data being transmitted to the operators of the social network in question, but only for the current page and the selected service. Accessing different pages on The H will result in the disabled button being displayed again. This enables users to participate in social networks without allowing the networks to create full browsing profiles.
Those who don't mind having their data transmitted and who require more convenience can permanently enable the buttons for their frequently accessed social networks. Ticking the appropriate box under the cog icon creates the same conditions that exist on many other web sites: the selected button will be permanently enabled. The setting can be changed again via the cog icon as well.
Of course, we would like other sites to adopt this concept. The code for our two-click buttons is very simple and largely portable. It is available under an open source licence and allows developers to adapt it to their own requirements. Those who are interested can download the code from heise online's project page – An English version is being prepared. If you use it, our associates would be pleased to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope that the number of web sites using it will increase.