Facebook has data on you

Facebook keeps data about people that don’t even have a Facebook account. Keep reading to find out the details.

In this morning’s hearing (sparked by the Cambridge Analytica “scraping” breach/scandal) with the House Energy and Commerce Committee, New Mexico Representative Ben Lujan brought up the debate about the so-called “shadow profiles” — the term often used to refer to the data that Facebook collects on non-users and other hidden data that Facebook holds but does not offer openly on the site for users to see.

Mark Zuckerberg Testifies

Rep. Lujan pressed Zuckerberg on the practice today:

Lujan: Facebook has detailed profiles on people who have never signed up for Facebook, yes or no?

Zuckerberg: Congressman, in general we collect data on people who have not signed up for Facebook for security purposes to prevent the kind of scraping you were just referring to [reverse searches based on public info like phone numbers].

Lujan: So these are called shadow profiles, is that what they’ve been referred to by some?

Zuckerberg: Congressman, I’m not, I’m not familiar with that.

Lujan: I’ll refer to them as shadow profiles for today’s hearing. On average, how many data points does Facebook have on each Facebook user?

Zuckerberg: I do not know off the top of my head.

Lujan: Do you know how many points of data Facebook has on the average non-Facebook user?

Zuckerberg: Congressman, I do not know off the top of my head but I can have our team get back to you afterward.

Lujan: It’s been admitted by Facebook that you do collect data points on non-[Facebook users]. My question is, can someone who does not have a Facebook account opt out of Facebook’s involuntary data collection?

Zuckerberg: Anyone can turn off and opt out of any data collection for ads, whether they use our services or not, but in order to prevent people from scraping public information… we need to know when someone is repeatedly trying to access our services.

Lujan: It may surprise you that we’ve not talked about this a lot today. You’ve said everyone controls their data, but you’re collecting data on people who are not even Facebook users who have never signed a consent, a privacy agreement.


As TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas explained during a 2013 Facebook privacy scandal:

Most likely someone you know or have corresponded with has let Facebook’s data spiders crawl through their email contacts or other social profiles, thereby allowing your contact data to be assimilated entirely without your knowledge or consent.

Just let that sit in your thinking cap. And share this post. But you don’t have to do it on Facebook. Unless you want to.


The dialogue of the congressional hearing and some other data was provided courtesy of TechCrunch.



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