Tuesday April 24, 2018
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What Facebook’s Privacy Policy Allows May Surprise You

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The social media app is in news for all the wrong reasons lately. VOA
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To get an idea of the data Facebook collects about you, just ask for it. You’ll get a file with every photo and comment you’ve posted, all the ads you’ve clicked on, stuff you’ve liked and searched for and everyone you’ve friended — and unfriended — over the years.

Now, the company is under fire for collecting data on people’s phone calls and text messages if they used Android devices. While Facebook insists users had to specifically agree, or opt in, to have such data collected, at least some users appeared surprised.

Facebook’s trove of data is used to decide which ads to show you. It also makes using Facebook more seamless and enjoyable — say, by determining which posts to emphasize in your feed, or reminding you of friends’ birthdays.

Facebook’s privacy practices have come under fire after a Trump-affiliated political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, got data inappropriately from millions of Facebook users. While past privacy debacles have centered on what marketers gather on users, the stakes are higher this time because the firm is alleged to have created psychological profiles to influence how people vote or even think about politics and society.

ALSO READ: Ten Hilarious Facebook Memes Cover Photos that will Make You Laugh Out Loud

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Facebook claims to protect all this information, and it lays out its terms in a privacy policy that’s relatively clear and concise. But few users bother to read it. You might be surprised at what Facebook’s privacy policy allows — and what’s left unsaid. Pixabay

Facebook defends its data collection and sharing activities by noting that it’s adhering to a privacy policy it shares with users. Thanks largely to years of privacy scandals and pressure from users and regulators, Facebook also offers a complex set of controls that let users limit how their information is used — to a point.

You can turn off ad targeting and see generic ads instead, the way you would on television or in a newspaper. In the ad settings, you’d need to uncheck all your interests, interactions with companies and websites and other personal information you don’t want to use in targeting. Of course, if you click on a new interest after this, you’ll have to go back and uncheck it in your ad preferences to prevent targeting. It’s a tedious task.

As Facebook explains, it puts you in target categories based on your activity. So, if you are 35, live in Seattle and have liked an outdoor adventure page, Facebook may show you an ad for a mountain bike shop in your area.

But activity isn’t limited to pages or posts you like, comments you make and your use of outside apps and websites.

“If you start typing something and change your mind and delete it, Facebook keeps those and analyzes them too,” Zeynep Tufekci, a prominent techno-sociologist, said in a 2017 TED talk.

And, increasingly, the social media site tries to match what it knows about you with your offline data, purchased from data brokers or gathered in other ways. The more information it has, the fuller the picture of you it can offer to advertisers. It can infer things about you that you had no intention of sharing — anything from your ethnicity to personality traits, happiness and use of addictive substances, Tufekci said.

These types of data collection aren’t necessarily explicit in privacy policies or settings.

Apps can also collect a lot of data about you, as revealed in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The firm got the data from a researcher who paid 270,000 Facebook users to complete a psychological profile quiz back in 2014. But the quiz gathered information on their friends as well, bringing the total number of people affected to about 50 million.

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What Facebook does say is that advertisers don’t get the raw data. They just tell Facebook what kind of people they want their ads to reach, then Facebook makes the matches and shows the ads. Pixabay

ALSO READ: We don’t save Android users’ data without permission: Facebook

Facebook says Cambridge Analytica got the data inappropriately — but only because the app said it collected data for research rather than political profiling. Gathering data on friends was permitted at the time, even if they had never installed the app or given explicit consent.

Ian Bogost, a Georgia Tech communications professor who built a tongue-in-cheek game called “Cow Clicker” in 2010, wrote in The Atlantic recently that abusing the Facebook platform for “deliberately nefarious ends” was easy to do then. What’s worse, he said, it was hard to avoid extracting private data.

If “you played Cow Clicker, even just once, I got enough of your personal data that, for years, I could have assembled a reasonably sophisticated profile of your interests and behavior,” he wrote. “I might still be able to; all the data is still there, stored on my private server, where Cow Clicker is still running, allowing players to keep clicking where a cow once stood.”

Facebook has since restricted the amount of types of data apps can access. But other types of data collection are still permitted. For this reason, it’s a good idea to check all the apps you’ve given permissions to over the years. You can also do this in your settings. VOA

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Facebook clarifies how it collects data when you’re logged out

Facebook is embroiled in a widening scandal that a British data firm called Cambridge Analytica improperly gathered detailed information on its 87 million users

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Facebook was accused of leaking data to Cambridge Analytica earlier this year.

After Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of the US Congress last week, the company on Tuesday tried to clarify on questions how it collects data when people are not directly using the website or app.

Many websites and apps use Facebook services to make their content and ads more engaging and relevant.

facebook
The social media app is in news for all the wrong reasons lately. VOA

“Apps and websites that use our services, such as the Like button or Facebook Analytics, send us information to make their content and ads better,” David Baser, Product Management Director at Facebook, wrote in a blog post.

In return for that information, Facebook helps those websites serve up relevant ads or receive analytics that help them understand how people use their services.

“When you visit a site or app that uses our services, we receive information even if you’re logged out or don’t have a Facebook account. This is because other apps and sites don’t know who is using Facebook,” Baser added.

Many companies offer these types of services and, like Facebook, they also get information from the apps and sites that use them.

“Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn all have similar Like and Share buttons to help people share things on their services. Google has a popular analytics service. And Amazon, Google and Twitter all offer login features,” Facebook said.

These companies — and many others — also offer advertising services. When you visit a website, your browser (for example Chrome, Safari or Firefox) sends a request to the site’s server. The browser shares your IP address so the website knows where on the Internet to send the site content.

The website also gets information about the browser and operating system (for example Android or Windows) you’re using because not all browsers and devices support the same features.

Also Read: Google Home To Be Your Best Friend Now

“It also gets cookies, which are identifiers that websites use to know if you’ve visited before. This can help with things like saving items in your shopping cart,” Facebook explained. “So when a website uses one of our services, your browser sends the same kind of information to Facebook as the website receives. We also get information about which website or app you’re using, which is necessary to know when to provide our tools,” Baser noted.

There are three main ways in which Facebook uses the information it gets from other websites and apps.

“Providing our services to these sites or apps; improving safety and security on Facebook; and enhancing our own products and services,” Baser said.

“We also use the information we receive from websites and apps to help protect the security of Facebook. For example, receiving data about the sites a particular browser has visited can help us identify bad actors,” he posted.

Facebook one of the most popular apps in US. Pixabay
Facebook needs to fix itself. Pixabay

Zuckerberg, appearing before the US Congress last week, told the lawmakers that his own personal data was part of 87 million users’ that was “improperly shared” with British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.

“We don’t sell the data. We use the data that people put into the system in order to make them more relevant. I believe people own their content,” he told the US Congress.

Facebook is embroiled in a widening scandal that a British data firm called Cambridge Analytica improperly gathered detailed information on its 87 million users. IANS