Facebook has always had its doubters, people worrying about the information we really give it. From conspiracies about it listening into conversations, like Alexa and Google Home, to the Cambridge Analytica scandal: Here are the 8 types of information that the platform claims it harvests and what they mean for you. All titles and quotes have been taken directly from Facebook’s full data use policy as of 2016.
Your Networks and Connections
Facebook might be good with your phone number but the same can’t be said for the information it gets from your Facebook Groups, Chats and interactions with friends. Facebook really likes to keep an eye on who you talk to, whether that be your mum, some random person from São Paulo you’ve talked to the once on that Plant Hobbyists group, or your best friends. “We also collect contact information you provide if you upload, sync or import this information (such as an address book) from a device.”
Information About Payments.
This one worries us the most. Here’s a direct quote because we don’t believe it needs any commentary. “If you use our Services for purchases or financial transactions (like when you buy something on Facebook, make a purchase in a game, or make a donation), we collect information about the purchase or transaction including your payment information, such as your credit or debit card number and other card information, and other account and authentication information, as well as billing, shipping and contact details.”
Things You Do and the Information You Provide.
Facebook is pretty sketchy at describing this one, but from what we can tell, it takes keywords, your location and the people you share posts with and turns them into a brand new feed. What they don’t tell you is that this information is given to advertisers and other third parties. Often Facebook doesn’t even bother to check what the information will be used for. If we were you we’d be pumping up those location settings.
Things You do with Others and the Information they Provide.
Facebook is clever and knows you have some people in your life you just can’t live without. What does it do with that knowledge? Of course it studies their phones and makes sure to get every piece of information it can about you, including contact details you might not want sharing with Facebook itself. “We also collect content and information that other people provide when [your Facebook friends]… upload, sync or import your contact information.” Finding out that the platform has your contact details may be enough to make you want to delete your app but surprisingly we’ve found no evidence that Facebook has shared anyone’s phone numbers without explicit permission. That’s better manners than some of my friends have….
At this point we can all agree that FB LOVES harvesting your information but did you know that it also collects all the information it can about your devices? From your phone to your laptop, the platform knows about your operating systems, file names, device settings, battery and even signal strength. As soon as you connect to Wifi it also seems that Facebook can access specific location information from your phone or laptop regardless of wether you want it to or not. What’s worse is that because Facebook knows this! Even amateur hackers could know where you are, too.
Information from Websites and Apps that use Facebook’s Services.
Facebook collects information from third parties using Facebook’s services such as ‘like’ buttons or Facebook Sign-In. It monitors apps and sites you visit and the information the site owners give to you and Facebook. Depending on the websites you use this could either mean a few extra lipstick ads popping up or all your information being given to third parties you’ve never heard about. Do they get your card details too?!
Information from Third-Party Partners
We aren’t very sure how deep this one goes as the platform offers very little information about it. From what we can tell, this one is about your experiences with advertisers and what they want from you. The platform’s partners give information about your interactions and preferences while you use their services. Why? Advertising. We think as long as you keep browser clean and don’t click on too many ads you’ll be okay.
Facebook is as big fan of third parties and one of the benefits it gets by being so open to advertising and sharing services is the ability to develop its own companies. It doesn’t surprise us that the description for this last section is the shortest. Whatsapp is among the many companies owned by Facebook and because each of these mini-companies has its own privacy policies, Facebook doesn’t have to say what the 4-1-1 is on your life from the perspective of these companies. At least it still tells you “We receive information about you.” Helpful, right?
That’s all we can say about the platform invading your life, and we’re really not trying to scare you out of using it. In the grand age of surveillance it’s only fair you understand what companies get out of your presence on their platforms. We need to be able to say what is and isn’t allowed.