Facebook might be at it again. Still with your personal information, but how they’re getting it and what they’re using it for is something a bit different. They are reportedly sharing your personal information that you didn’t even submit to the social network. This information is being shared with advertisers, and it’s not something that you can even erase. This is based on a paper published by researchers at Northeastern University and Princeton University, who looked into how ad targeting works on Facebook.
Here’s a pretty straightforward example. Let’s say that you have both a mobile phone and a landline. If you’ve listed the mobile phone in your profile, then, of course, Facebook will use that in some way to target you with an advertisement. But if the advertiser has your landline in their database, they’re going to use that to target you as well. How does this work when you haven’t shared that with Facebook? Well, you haven’t given that number directly to Facebook, but if you gave that number to a friend, who is also on the social network and they have it saved in their address book (which Facebook has access to) then it’s going to be associated with your profile.
This is what I have been saying is super creepy about Facebook for some time now. I mean, isn’t it? Facebook has previously denied doing this, but the fact is it’s still happening. What might be worse, if you give the site a mobile number for two-factor authentication, that can also be used by advertisers who have it listed in their database. Some are saying that this isn’t the worst that Facebook has done, but I think it’s pretty high up there. Not to mention, it also proves that Facebook doesn’t care about your privacy.
How do we feel about this? I guess my biggest concern is around the whole idea that me, as a non-Facebook user, could be targeted because a friend of mine has my phone number in their address book on their phone. And it’s not just Facebook that’s using it, but their advertisers as well. It’s hard to even wrap your brain around how this would work, or how someone could even get my phone number to target me in the first place.
It definitely feels like an invasion of privacy. How is anyone supposed to trust Facebook when they’ve been saying that they’re not doing this all along? I mean, that’s what Mark Zuckerberg has been saying for months, maybe even an entire year, and yet here we are with more evidence that they’re doing what they’ve been denying all along.
Is there anything that we can do to stop this? The short answer is no. You could stop using Facebook altogether, but the damage is already done. But if you do stop using it, then you’re sending a message that you don’t want to be part of this kind of use of data in general. But like I said – the damage is done. They already have your data and mine, even though I’m not even on Facebook.