Tech

Facebook fuels broad privacy debate by tracking non-users

Facebook fuels broad privacy debate by tracking non-users

The company yesterday published a blogpost, where its product manager David Baser said that Facebook collects data about web users who aren't even logged into Facebook. The company gets this data from websites and apps that let people share or like posts using Facebook plugins, or log into the website with their Facebook accounts.

Whenever you visit other websites, Facebook, either through its services on those websites or through the cookies (basically a form of code which tracks users' activities over the internet) stored on your browser, collects location, browser information including your past activities and operating system, among others. He says that companies like Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn also have Facebook-like Like and Share buttons to help user share things on website.

Baser confirmed that Facebook collects data even when you are not logged into your Facebook account. The company just updated its privacy policy, it says, and it uses info for "providing our services to these sites or apps; improving safety and security on Facebook; and enhancing our own products and services", but "We don't sell people's data".

"Whether it's information from apps and websites, or information you share with other people on Facebook, we want to put you in control - and be transparent about what information Facebook has and how it is used".

Facebook, in return, helps those websites serve up relevant ads or receive analytics to study how people use their services.

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The "we don't sell data" party line was uttered several times during Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's appearance before Congress. ".when you see a YouTube video on a site that's not YouTube, it tells your browser to request the video from YouTube".

"It also gets cookies, which are identifiers that websites use to know if you've visited before". So when a website uses one of our services, your browser sends the same kinds of information to Facebook as the website receives. However, this data is used by Facebook to make money, like the $40 billion in revenue it made in 2017.

The ACLU is pushing USA lawmakers to enact broad privacy legislation including a requirement for consent prior to data collection. This trend will unarguably continue, and most recently did with Facebook spreading gross data breaches across the globe. If someone tries to log into your account using an IP address from a different country, we might ask some questions to verify it's you. Tough luck if you don't want "engaging" ads.

The blog post concluded by going over what controls users have over their data. Besides politicians, privacy advocates are also disturbed by Zuckerberg's comments.

A survey of 3,000 people by USA think-tank the Ponemon Institute, reported by The Financial Times, showed that users are significantly more sceptical that Facebook will handle their personal information with care than they were past year.