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Earlier this month, data firm Cambridge Analytica came under fire for reportedly mining Facebook data from as many as 50 million users to influence the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.
Although the political ramifications of this discovery are still under debate, the fact that a data firm had access to this info has sparked a series of debates about how much data Facebook has and how and why they keep it. There’s been calls to delete the platform, and even though Mark Zuckerberg has talked about protecting user data, the extent of the data mining is widespread. Amid the news, Facebook's bottom line has been suffering.
Most of us probably expect companies like Facebook to be keeping track of some of our data, but many are shocked at the scope of data that Facebook keeps. For example: Facebook even collects call and text data from some of its users. Dylan Curran, a tech consultant and web developer, went viral for outlining just how much information Google and Facebook have on you, but even he missed out on one of the creepiest developments: Facebook keeps every single video you have ever recorded on the platform, even if you never posted it and eventually deleted it, New York Magazine points out.
Want to freak yourself out? I'm gonna show just how much of your information the likes of Facebook and Google store about you without you even realising it— Dylan Curran (@iamdylancurran) March 24, 2018
Remember several years ago when the “cool” thing to do was record videos through Facebook and post them to your friend’s walls? It was a pre-FaceTime, pre-Facebook or Instagram Live era, and once you allowed your computer’s webcam to be recognized by Facebook, you could record and post videos. After recording, you could see if you liked the video, and then decide to discard it and record it again before finally posting it. Turns out Facebook kept all of those takes, even the ones you didn’t post.
One New York Magazine employee found over 100 videos in their archive, the majority of which she claims was never posted publicly. “There are videos of me just checking my teeth,” she said.
We have known since at least 2013 that Facebook does record information that you type but don’t post on Facebook, namely in the status bar. Facebook’s data policy states that they can “collect the content and other information you provide when you use our Services, including when you sign up for an account, create or share, and message or communicate with others.” Apparently “create” can include content that you decided to not post. That’s a prime example of why so many people are pissed off with Facebook. While it can be argued that we consented to all of this by agreeing to the terms and conditions and continuing to use the platform, it’s not as though the language is clear-cut and easy to understand all of the time.
It might be slightly comforting, then, to know that Facebook is overhauling its privacy settings in an attempt to give users more control of their data. The Daily Dot reports that the company announced that it will commit to a “top to bottom” redesign of their privacy pages that will condense 20 different menu pages into one centralized system. The idea is that the redesign will demystify the platform’s privacy settings and users will at least be a little bit more aware of the surprising amount of data they hand over to the company every time they sign on. The changes are set to go live in the next few weeks.
“The last week showed how much more work we need to do to enforce our policies, and to help people understand how Facebook works and the choices they have over their data,” Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, and Ashlie Beringer, Facebook's deputy general counsel, said in a blog post. “We’ve heard loud and clear that privacy settings and other important tools are too hard to find, and that we must do more to keep people informed.”
Apple chief executive Tim Cook recently slammed Facebook for how it treats its users in an interview with Recode and MSNBC. “We could make a ton of money if we monetized our customers. If our customers were our product,” Cook said in the interview, which will air April 6. “We care about the user experience. And we’re not going to traffic in your personal life. I think it’s an invasion of privacy. I think it’s—privacy to us is a human right. It’s a civil liberty." Cook also called for regulations to be imposed on Facebook.