Facebook used its apps to gather information about users and their friends, including some who had not signed up to the social network, reading their text messages, tracking their locations and accessing photos on their phones, a court case in California alleges.
The claims of what would amount to mass surveillance are part of a lawsuit brought against the company by the former startup Six4Three, listed in legal documents filed at the superior court in San Mateo as part of a court case that has been ongoing for more than two years. 1
Facebook continued to explore and implement ways to track users’ location, to track and read their texts, to access and record their microphones on their phones, to track and monitor their usage of competitive apps on their phones, and to track and monitor their calls 2
Facebook makes most of its money from advertising, and — as the Cambridge Analytica scandal continues to haunt Mark Zuckerberg’s company — users are demanding to know how their data is being wrangled and harvested.
But while concern about Facebook user privacy has spiked, it’s been clear since Facebook’s inception that its business is based on widespread surveillance of people, whose data is the product.
Some have portrayed the revelations of the Cambridge Analytica scandal — in which data was allegedly harvested from 50m Facebook profiles — as an “existential crisis”, while others have highlighted potential implications for academic research.
In short, Facebook’s data harvesting methods have become a subject of sudden and widespread concern.
Zuckerberg also revealed another fact that is sure to worry anyone who doesn’t use Facebook. As many already suspected, Facebook collects data about non-users, too.
During Zuckerberg’s appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Ben Lujan asked him whether or not Facebook collected data on users who did not have an account.
“In general we collect data on people who are not signed up for Facebook for security purposes,” Zuckerberg said. When asked if these are what is known as “shadow profiles,” but Zuckerberg said he is “not familiar” with that term.3
To make matters more complicated, Facebook owns WhatsApp and Instagram too, and can pool some of the information it gathers in those apps as well.
Apart from Google, Facebook is probably the only company that possesses this high level of detailed customer information. The more users who use Facebook, the more information they amass. Heavily investing in its ability to collect, store, and analyze data, Facebook does not stop there. Apart from analyzing user data, Facebook has other ways of determining user behavior.
- Tracking cookies: Facebook tracks its users across the web by using tracking cookies. If a user is logged into Facebook and simultaneously browses other websites, Facebook can track the sites they are visiting.
- Facial recognition: One of Facebook’s latest investments has been in facial recognition and image processing capabilities. Facebook can track its users across the internet and other Facebook profiles with image data provided through user sharing.
- Tag suggestions: Facebook suggests who to tag in user photos through image processing and facial recognition.
- Analyzing the Likes: A recent study conducted showed that it is viable to predict data accurately on a range of personal attributes that are highly sensitive just by analyzing a user’s Facebook Likes. Work conducted by researchers at Cambridge University and Microsoft Research shows how the patterns of Facebook Likes can very accurately predict your sexual orientation, satisfaction with life, intelligence, emotional stability, religion, alcohol use and drug use, relationship status, age, gender, race, and political views — among many others.
Facebook Inc. analytics chief Ken Rudin says, “Big Data is crucial to the company’s very being.” He goes on to say that, “Facebook relies on a massive installation of Hadoop, a highly scalable open-source framework that uses clusters of low-cost servers to solve problems. Facebook even designs its hardware for this purpose. Hadoop is just one of many Big Data technologies employed at Facebook.”
The new Off-Facebook Activity tool, which the company announced can tell you which companies are supplying Facebook with information about your real-world activity — for example, that you visited their website or purchased a product from it
When it comes to politics, about half of Facebook users (51%) are assigned a political “affinity” by the site. Among those who are assigned a political category by the site, 73% say the platform’s categorization of their politics is very or somewhat accurate, while 27% say it describes them not very or not at all accurately. Put differently, 37% of Facebook users are both assigned a political affinity and say that affinity describes them well, while 14% are both assigned a category and say it does not represent them accurately.
For some users, Facebook also lists a category called “multicultural affinity.” According to third-party online courses about how to target ads on Facebook, this listing is meant to designate a user’s “affinity” with various racial and ethnic groups, rather than assign them to groups reflecting their actual race or ethnic background. Only about a fifth of Facebook users (21%) say they are listed as having a “multicultural affinity.” Overall, 60% of users who are assigned a multicultural affinity category say they do in fact have a very or somewhat strong affinity for the group to which they are assigned, while 37% say their affinity for that group is not particularly strong. Some 57% of those who are assigned to this category say they do in fact consider themselves to be a member of the racial or ethnic group to which Facebook assigned them. 3
Facebook flaw that put the health data of millions at risk 4
As firms such as Apple push privacy as a unique selling point, Facebook knows it needs to be in on the game. Today’s users want to be aware of what their data is being used for, and to have more control over it.
For this reason, the social network has chosen Global Data Privacy Day to launch a new privacy tool called Off-Facebook Activity. The feature allows you to view a summary of the information the social network receives about your use of non-Facebook apps and websites. You can then disconnect the data from your account if you wish to. However this OFf facebook Activity is still in trail stage and finally looking at the recent past no one knows what is actually to happen