There are some things that we do everyday to keep us healthy and happy like eating, sleeping, logging onto Facebook, exercising ... etc. And yes Facebook does keep me healthy and happy, sometimes. This concept, this portal hub thing where all my friends and family live virtually is like my fourth “place” which includes, my house, work and Starbucks. It has become a part of my life, and I check it dutifully everyday to see the latest rants and raves of people I met once along with close personal friends and family.

However, it’s been irking me lately the way the site seems to know what I’m doing when I’m not logged on. Case in point: I was looking up Weezer’s new album on Google and later when I logged on to Facebook, an icon on the right of my wall was advertising Weezer paraphernalia. I don’t really want to wear Rivers Cuomo, but this instance of cookie sharing and data mining between other Web sites seemed harmless.

The second instance was a bit funny and annoying at the same time. So I’m Filipina, and I’m deeply involved with many organizations about the awesomeness of my culture. Back on Facebook, I start getting these boxed advertisements on the right of my wall about Filipino lawyers and tax professionals – ads that have nothing to do with anything I was initially searching for. I’d type in Filipino art in Google and get an immigration specialist as an ad on Facebook. Yeah, Facebook, not cool and slightly offensive!

This happened a lot between going to one site to another. And I get it, Facebook is a business and targeted advertisement is how they make their money, but it made me wonder if there was something sinister happening in my fourth place that I wasn’t aware of.

So I did some research, and there are a slew of newspaper articles, blogs and a Wikipedia entry dedicated to Facebook criticism and privacy concerns.

For starters, even though your Facebook is filled with interesting and damaging photographs, quotes and information, each user is assigned a unique Facebook identification number that allows people to search for you. This number (depending on your privacy settings) has the ability to share information such as your name, address and photos.

This October, the Wall Street Journal found that 25 software development companies (You know, they’re the ones who develop those fun games and Facebook apps.) were giving away Facebook ID numbers to advertising agencies and data firms who use that information to track a user’s activities online. Some of these companies told the Journal that they didn’t even know they were doing it. Uh … suspicious! Though Facebook doesn’t install cookies onto your computer, Facebook apps do, so be wary when downloading that new game about how to harvest puppies or fruit or whatever. With my problem regarding cookies, I was able to find an opt-out feature at the very center of Facebook’s Privacy Policy, which is a good read.

Also, you know the thumbs up icon? Oh Blah and Blah are in a relationship: Like. A link that Justin Bieber is really a lesbian: Like. You said something totally inspirational and witty but not overly pretentious: Like. This icon got Facebook into trouble back in April when they placed the Like icons on different Web sites. When a user clicked on it, their profile information would be sent to sites like Yelp by default.

Lastly, with the way Facebook is set up, it takes a lot of vigilance to keep your privacy intact. The “Everyone” setting is defaulted, so you will need to manually change the settings if you don’t want your parents watching that video of you doing “That.” And if you don’t want your pictures and info on Facebook forever, deleting the account is freaking difficult. And I mean deleting permanently. If in any way you access your account within 14 days of said deletion, your profile is automatically resurrected. Accessing your account even through its connection with sites like YouTube will restore your account. Even if you’re vigilant, who knows if your information is totally and completely gone, or if it has been stored away for later use.

In the end I believe in the goodness of Facebook, but it’s a good idea to start checking up on your privacy settings now so that you don’t continue on Facebook after you have logged off.