Zuckerberg won't give a straight answer on data downloads

Zuckerberg won't give a straight answer on data downloads
From TechCrunch - April 11, 2018

What does Facebookknow about you? Clearly a whole lot more than its comfortable letting on.

Today, during testimony in front of the House Energy & Commerce committee, CEO Mark Zuckerbergwas pressed by congressman Jerry McNerney on whether Facebook lets users download all their informationand he ended up appearing to contract its owncookies policy, whichif you go and actually read itstates pretty clearly that Facebook harvests users browsing data.

See, for e.g.:

We use cookies if you have a Facebook account, use theFacebook Products, including our website and apps, or visit other websites and apps that use the Facebook Products (including the Like button or other Facebook Technologies). Cookies enable Facebook to offer the Facebook Products to you and to understand the information we receive about you, including information about your use of other websites and apps, whether or not you are registered or logged in.

Yet you wont find your browsing data included in the copy of the information you can request from Facebook. Nor will you find a complete list of all the advertisers that have told Facebook they can target you with ads. Nor will you find lots of other pieces of personal information like images that Facebook knows youre in but which were uploaded by other users, or a phone number you declined to share with it but which was uploaded anyway because one of your friends synced their contacts with its apps, thereby handing your digits over without your say so.

And thats just to name a few of the missing pieces of information that Facebook knows and holds about youwont tell you about if you ask it for a copy of your information.

Heres the key exchangewhich is worth reading in full to see how carefully Zuckerberg worded his replies:

McNerney: Is there currently a place that I can download all of the Facebook information about me including the websites that I have visited?

Zuckerberg: Yes congressman. We have a download your information tool, weve had it for years, you can go to it in your settings and download all of thecontent that you have on Facebook.

McNerney: Well my staff, just this morning, downloaded their information and their browsing history is not in it. So are you saying that Facebook does not have browsing history?

Zuckerberg: Congressman that would be correct. If we dont have content in there then that means that you dont have it on Facebook. Or you havent put it there.

McNerney: Im not quite on board with this. Is there any other information that Facebook has obtained about me whether Facebook collected it or obtained it from a third party that would not be included in the download?

Zuckerberg: Congressman, my understanding is that all of your information is included in download your information.

McNerney: Im going to follow up with this afterwards.

If you read Zuckerbergs answers carefully youll see that each time he reframes the question to only refer to information that Facebook users have themselves put on Facebook.

What he is absolutely not talking about is the much more voluminousand almost entirely unseensupermassive blackholes worth of data the company itself amasses about users (and indeed, non-users) via a variety of on and offsite tracking mechanisms, includingoutside its walled gardencookies, pixels and social plug-ins embedded on third party websites.


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