File Under: privacy, Social

Social Sharing Buttons That Respect Your Visitors’ Privacy

A more honest “Like” button. Image: Webmonkey.

Social sharing buttons — Facebook “Like” buttons and their ilk — are ubiquitous, but that doesn’t mean they’re a good idea.

Designers tend to hate them, calling them “Nascar” buttons since the can make your site look at little bit like a Nascar racing car — every available inch of car covered in advertising. Others think the buttons make you look desperate — please, please like/pin/tweet me — but there’s a much more serious problem with putting Facebook “Like” buttons or Pinterest “Pin It” buttons on your site: your visitors’ privacy.

When you load up your site with a host of sharing buttons you’re — unwittingly perhaps — enabling those companies to track your visitors, whether they use the buttons and their accompanying social networks or not.

There is, however, a slick solution available for those who’d like to offer visitors sharing buttons without allowing their site to be a vector for Facebook tracking. Security expert (and Wired contributor) Bruce Schneier recently switched his blog over to use Social Share Privacy, a jQuery plugin that allows you to add social buttons to your site, but keeps them disabled until visitors actively choose to share something.

With Social Share Privacy buttons are disabled by default. A user needs to first click to enable them, then click to use them. So there is a second (very small) step compared to what the typical buttons offer. In exchange for the minor inconvenience of a second click, your users won’t be tracked without their knowledge and consent. There’s even an option in the preferences to permanently enable the buttons for repeat visitors so they only need to jump through the click-twice hoop once.

The original Social Share Privacy plugin was created by the German website Heise Online, though what Schneier installed is Mathias Panzenböck’s fork, available on GitHub. The fork adds support for quite a few more services and is extensible if there’s something else you’d like to add.