Saturday, 7 July 2012

How to See Who Views Your Facebook Profile

By now, you've most likely seen the many apps and Web services claiming to let you see who's viewing your Facebook profile. Is your college ex checking up on you? Is someone from work scrolling through pictures of your beach vacation? Are your parents secretly peeking in on your private life? These apps promise the answers.

The only way to know for sure who's viewing your Facebook profile is to actually see them do it.

Unfortunately, they don't deliver. Not a single one of them.

You can be 100 percent certain that each and every app that says "See who views your profile!" or "stalker tracker" or anything else like that is virus-laden junk. These apps would like you to cough up your Facebook password, or they might install the ability to spam your friends via your Facebook wall.

Again: Be extremely wary of any service or app that claims to show you who's been viewing your Facebook profile. This functionality violates Facebook's privacy rules. If you've fallen prey to a purported stalker app (or any other type of Facebook malware), be sure to check out Facebook's instructions for revoking app access to your account.

That said, there are a couple ways to get clues and insights into who's been floating around your profile. While you won't end up with the definitive list you're likely looking for, keep reading for tips and tricks that toe -- but don't cross! -- that fine line between natural curiosity and a massive breach of privacy.

Stat Trackers and Analytics:

 While a stat tracker won't let you see exactly who is tracking you on Facebook, adding a counter to your Facebook page can at least tell you how many people are viewing your profile. First, you'll need to add to your profile an application that allows you to display static HTML or FBML boxes. There are many apps for this, many of which you can find by typing "HTML" or "FBML" into Facebook's search bar.

Once you've installed an HTML box application, you can put code in it -- in this case, the HTML code for a stat tracker. Don't worry -- you won't have to write the code yourself! Instead, boost it from someplace like, which will lead you through the steps needed to generate a visible or invisible stat counter.
Drop this code into the static HTML or FBML box on your profile page and voila -- you can see how many hits you're getting on your Facebook profile. If a spike in hits corresponds with an old flame's return from Everest or release from prison, you'll have a clue as to who's looking at your profile.

There's a big difference between Facebook "pages" and Facebook "profiles." Business and fan pages allow the use of varying kinds of analytics that allow you to monitor page traffic and see where it's coming from. Profiles don't.

Facebook Analytics is the easiest way to get a handle on your business or fan page traffic. It's already in the Facebook app directory, so simply search for it within Facebook, click to install, and ogle away. If you want more full-featured analytics, you're going to have to get a little creative.

One place to go for analytics is outside data monitoring sites like Webtrends. Simply set up an account, and Webtrends will return somewhat detailed analytics on your Facebook business or fan page.

With a little finagling, you can install the gold standard of Web-tracking services, Google Analytics. First set up a Google Analytics account, and then add a new profile for your Facebook fan or business page.

Now the finagling: Facebook disallows the language JavaScript -- the language of Google Analytics -- so you'll have to convert the Google Analytics code to FBML or HTML. A quick search returns a number of converters. Get the JavaScript from Google, paste it into a converter, and copy the resulting HTML. Now that you have HTML or FBML, you can set up an HTML box on your Facebook page. Drop the converted code in the box, and you should be good to go.

Analyzing Apps:

Designers know there's a market for Facebook apps that allow you to see who views your profile. And they also know that Facebook has strict privacy rules forbidding it. So many designers toe this line, bringing you right up to the edge of something resembling actual knowledge. One popular stalker-ish app is Social Statistics, which, in its words, allows you to "calculate your biggest fans, your overall influence, and your compatibility with other users." Search around and you'll find more like it.

While you can't see who views your profile, there are ways to see how many people visit your page.

Social Statistics and its spinoffs rely on a seemingly technical -- but very important -- point: They can mine your profile for interaction. When someone "likes" a photo you post, comments on your status update or otherwise interacts with your profile, these apps know, and they can build models of your most active friends. But if an ex-boyfriend is simply lurking around your profile, there's absolutely no way to tell, so don't believe the apps that tell you otherwise.

Typing the word "statistics" into the Facebook app directory returns a long list of traffic tracking apps, similar to Facebook Analytics. Most of them aren't as good. But you'll find a rotating and ever-increasing list of gems that do things like mine your status updates for the words you use most.

Be assured that app designers are constantly prodding Facebook for workarounds that take you past the Facebook privacy rules, and every once in a while, a designer finds an inroad. Generally, when this happens, an app that actually does return interesting information about your profile views has a ticking lifespan, which ends when Facebook finds out and shuts it down. For example, take Breakup Notifier, which claimed, "You like someone. They're in a relationship. Be the first to know when they're out of it." The app worked by mining your friends' relationship statuses.

In 36 hours, it attracted 700,000 visits. And then, poof, it was gone within the week, squished like a grape under the stiletto heel of Facebook.

If you keep your eyes peeled, you might come across the next banned app before it's banned. Until then, learn to live with the fact that -- definitively, finally and with an exclamation point -- you can't see who's stalking you on Facebook.


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