Facebook wants users to know that it’s not the only one tracking their every move on the internet.
The social media giant pointed a finger at Google, Amazon, Twitter and other platforms for using many of the same data collection practices that some privacy advocates are referring to as invasive.
In a blog post published Monday, the firm described in depth all the ways it gathers information on you around the web — even if you’re not a Facebook member or are logged out of your account.
Facebook has been feeling the heat ever since it was revealed last month that more than 87 million users’ data had been unknowingly shared with research firm Cambridge Analytica
Facebook has been feeling the heat ever since it was revealed last month that more than 87 million users’ data had been harvested without their knowledge.
Now, Facebook wants to make it clear that it’s not the only platform collecting data on its users as they browse other websites.
‘Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn all have similar Like and Share buttons to help people share things on their services,’ David Baser, Facebook’s product management director, wrote in a blog post.
‘Google has a popular analytics service. And Amazon, Google and Twitter all offer login features’
‘These companies — and many others — also offer advertising services. In fact, most websites and apps send the same information to multiple companies each time you visit them,’ Baser added.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (pictured) appeared on Capitol Hill last week for a pair of high stakes hearings on the firm’s ongoing privacy scandal
Facebook recently introduced new ‘privacy shortcuts’ at the top of the news feed in order to make it easier for users to limit what data is collected by third-party apps and advertisers
He noted that Google collects similar information from users when they visit other websites, such as IP addresses and cookies, as well as data on your internet browser and operating system.
‘When you see a YouTube video on a site that’s not YouTube, it tells your browser to request the video from YouTube. YouTube then sends it to you,’ Baser said.
In recent weeks, Google has also been in focus as it’s been revealed that the firm often tracks every website you click on, your location, as well as every file you’ve uploaded to Google Drive — even if they’ve been deleted.
Facebook and other firms have defended these practices by saying it helps them show users more relevant ads.
This isn’t pure altruism, however, because if a user clicks on Facebook ads more often, brands are likely to buy more ads to run on the site.
Facebook is known to collect broad swaths of information on users. For example, the ‘Your Information’ section on the site uses a member’s ‘likes’ to determine their political affiliation
In the blog post, the firm breaks down how it tracks users that visit a website with Facebook’s services installed, such as a ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ button.
Whenever a user visits a website that has a Facebook plugin installed, their browser sends and receives data, such as their IP address, cookies, etc., that enables content or advertisements to appear on a webpage.
Facebook receives this information regardless of whether the user has or doesn’t have a Facebook account because other apps and websites can’t tell the difference, according to the firm.
Many websites make use of Facebook’s analytics service, which provides information on users that visit a site or app, as well as the firm’s controversial ‘Pixel’ tool, which is software code that is used to track which users visit a site, what they click on and how long they visit the site for.
Facebook reiterated that it doesn’t sell the user data that it collects, but that hasn’t stopped many users, experts and privacy advocates from remaining skeptical.
The blog post doesn’t note how long it stores that data for or how it uses the data it stores.
Many websites make use of Facebook’s analytics service, which provides information on users that visit a site or app, as well as the firm’s controversial ‘Pixel’ tool, which is software code that is used to track which users visit a site, what they click on and how long they visit the site for
It also offers no explanations or solutions for how non-Facebook users can opt out of being tracked by Facebook’s plugins and services on other websites.
Many of the data collection tactics being described may be used to build so-called ‘shadow profiles’.
The firm has faced some serious scrutiny over shadow profiles, with Facebook boss Zuckerberg largely denying they exist at the recent hearings.
Shadow profiles refer to a library of data that the firm collects on internet users who’ve never had a Facebook account.
It may also refer to the data that Facebook stores but doesn’t make publicly available for users to see.
Facebook’s ‘shadow profiles’ have been written about extensively over the past few years.
Facebook has rolled out a handful of updates to the app to make it easier for users to edit their privacy settings. It also launched the Data Abuse Bounty program to help find the next Cambridge Analytica, offering up to a $40,000 reward in some cases
Even if you don’t have a Facebook profile, the firm may still have a rough idea of who you are based on information it has gathered from Facebook users who have contacted you and have their messaging or email apps connected to Facebook.
Despite shadow profiles being widely reported on, Zuckerberg initially said he had no knowledge of the existence of shadow profiles when a representative asked him about them.
Facebook claims that it collects all this data on users as a way to keep the site secure and to improve its products and services.
‘For example, receiving data about the sites a particular browser has visited can help us identify bad actors,’ Baser wrote in the blog post.
‘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.’
Baser added that the tools can help identify bots.
Despite the widespread criticism, Facebook has insisted that it gives users the necessary information to know that websites are tracking them.
It also claims it gives user the option to give consent, or opt in, to these practices.
However, there don’t seem to be any controls if you’re logged out of Facebook or don’t have a Facebook account.