Facebook Answered Congress’s Questions About Data Privacy. Here Are 5 Surprising Ways They Track You
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg already answered a lot of questions when he faced Congress in April. Now, as promised, the social network answered the rest of the questions he was not able to answer during his hearing—in the form of a nearly 500 page document. Congress released the answers Monday.
While many of the answers don’t shed light on anything new, it did serve as a somewhat disconcerting reminder of all the ways Facebook (FB) is able to track you. The methods are numerous—here are a few of the most surprising.
Pixel, also known as a web beacon or web tag, is a technology that allows the social media company to gather information for advertisers about what happens after a user clicks on a Facebook ad, meaning it is able to continue to track a user’s movement after he or she leaves Facebook. Facebook did point out, however, that it is not the only company that shares information with third-parties, citing Google (GOOGL) and others who do the same.
Facebook knows if and how you are using the site
The company is able to track “operations and behaviors,” including whether you are actively using Facebook, or if it is simply one of several tabs that you have opened, what it calls “foregrounded or backgrounded.” These operations also include mouse movements, which reportedly allows the company to determine whether the user is a human or bot.
Facebook knows your shopping habits
Facebook is able to gather information about your purchases—even when they’re made on websites external to the social media site and you’re not logged in. It is also able to track games you play.
Facebook might have access to your address book or call log
If a user has chosen to upload or sync their device with Facebook to find people they may know, the company will have access to your contact information, including your address book. But that’s not all: providing that information could also give Facebook access to your call log or SMS log history.
Facebook knows a lot about the device you’re using
Facebook gathers information about what type of device you’re using to log in to Facebook, such as a computer, phone, or connected TV. But it’s not just the type of advice: it also has data on your internet service provider or mobile operator, and even the strength of your wifi signal. It is also able to determine information about other devices that are nearby or on the same network.
That’s not all. Facebook knows the battery level of your device, how much storage is available, and which plugins have been installed.
There’s at least one thing you needn’t worry about though: Facebook claims it is not using your device’s microphone to listen to your conversations. In its answers, the company wrote that “Facebook does not engage in these practices or capture data from a microphone or camera without consent. Of course, we do allow people to take videos on their devices and share those on our platform.”