It’s no great secret that Facebook holds an immense amount of personal data. That’s essentially the whole point of the platform, after all. You can view someone’s profile to find out their name, age, location, view their photos, and find out what they had for breakfast.
A lot of the data is stuff that people have submitted themselves through natural use of the platform. But lots of it isn’t – did you know that you could sign up for something on another site entirely and that company will then import the information into Facebook?
Facebook often comes under fire for how it handles user’s personal data in relation to advertising. The firm run by Mark Zuckerberg has faced accusations of selling private user data to advertisers. It’s a claim that Zuckerberg strongly denies.
“Selling people’s information to advertisers would be counter to our business interests, because it would reduce the unique value of our service to advertisers. We have a strong incentive to protect people’s information from being accessed by anyone else,” said Zuckerberg in a piece he penned for the Wall Street Journal.
Rather than targeting specific people with adverts, companies set parameters for groups that they want to advertise to. For example, a sports brand might target 20 to 30-year-olds who like tennis and running. Facebook then looks at its userbase to serve the advert to the relevant people.
Facebook is no stranger to data controversy, though. It was only last year that allegations spread that UK firm Cambridge Analytica had accessed personal data of up to 87 million users without permission. This happened because third-party developers could not only see the data of people using their applications, but also their friends – this loophole was closed in 2015.
While user data is being used for advertising purposes, Zuckerberg claims it isn’t being sold and is being kept within the Facebook platform.
He also states that user data also helps with “security and operating our services”, though goes on to admit that the firm must be more transparent about how user data interfaces with generating ad revenue.
“We need to be clear about the ways we’re using information. And people need to have clear choices about how their information is used. We believe regulation that codifies these principles across the internet would be good for everyone,” he said.
However, internal Facebook documents seized by the British government found that the company were flirting with the idea of selling access to user data to companies like Amazon and the Royal Bank of Canada to keep hold of their advertising money.
“We were trying to figure out how to build a sustainable business,” Facebook told The Wall Street Journal. “We had a lot of internal conversations about how we could do this.”
Indeed, there’s no proof that Facebook went ahead with any of this, nor that the discussion went further than some email comments from employees. Nevertheless, it shows that you should always be aware of how companies are using your data and know that their terms could change at any time.
Does Facebook Sell the Personal Data it Hoards?
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