Facebook lost a record $120 million in market value a day after it announced the second quarter earnings, where it informed investors that user growth has slowed for the first time. With the earnings, Facebook also warned investors that revenue growth would decelerate as it tries to revamp the news feed for a more meaningful interaction to its users.
The earnings call was shadowed by Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, where the company informed that over public data of over 87 million users were scraped by a big data firm in the UK. Soon after the revelation, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was summoned by US Senators and European legislators to understand the gravity of the issue. While Zuckerberg did apologize for the mistake committed by not protecting the platform against those who like to harvest data, the company offered little clarity as to how it plans to prevent such actions from taking place on the platform.
In the last few months, Facebook has run audit of all the apps on its platforms and has even removed apps that have been found to be collecting more data than required under the terms of agreement. Facebook also blocks apps that the user has not interacted with for more than 90 days thus restricting them from collecting your data.
One of the biggest step yet taken by the firm is the redesigned privacy settings which makes it easier to understand the data collected by the service and toggle the platform from collecting them. It has also introduced privacy guards that protect the information of users on the platform.
Facebook has over 2.2 billion monthly active users and the public data on the platform when put in the wrong hands can turn disruptive. The best example can be seen from the misinformation planted on Facebook by Russia’s Internet Research Agency to manipulate the result of US Presidential Election in 2016. The same tools could be used by some other state actor to manipulate election somewhere else. While it is evident that developers have been trying to scrape data from Facebook, it is rather important to know what Facebook knows about you in the first place.
All the data collected by Facebook from its users
1. Profile Information: The most basic data given away by Facebook users is the one seen on profile information. This data includes contact information, information in the ‘About You’ section and other life events posted by users on the platform.
2. Location History: With Facebook data, a rogue actor can easily plot the whereabouts of a user using the location data. Facebook receives location history of its user through location services on their device. This can be disabled by going to settings and disabling location information for Facebook within the app settings.
3. Call and Text Logs: Facebook also collects call and message logs if you explicitly allow the application to access them in your device settings.
4. History: This is the most crucial piece of information collected by Facebook. It has history of users’ logins, logouts, amount of time that users spend active on the platform and the devices they use to access Facebook. This is a wide ranging data that can triangulate user behavior and be used to customize advertisements shown for them.
5. Social connections: It is very simple to say that we join Facebook to connect with our friends and family. Facebook even collects data related to people you are friends with on the platform and messages that you exchange with them using its Messenger service.
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6. Apps and Websites: Facebook created a single sign-on plugin for other services to integrate with its platform. The idea was that users need only one sign-in service(Facebook in this case) and can use it on other platforms that support the login. When you grant access to a particular app or website to see you public profile, Facebook immediately knows about the access and has promised to eliminate illegal actions through this mode.
7. Information shared with advertisers: Facebook also knows about the information that you have shared with advertisers and knows what specific data is being collected directly from the users.
8. Search: Facebook also collects history of user search data, which could be name of your friend or a page or something different.
9. Other data: Facebook also collects network information like the networks you use while accessing data. It knows about posts that you have shared on Facebook and can even read about posts that are hidden from your timeline. The data collected include created nyphotos and videos uploaded or shared on the platform and list of places created by you.
It is important to note that you can force Facebook to not know certain information that it collects about you. For example, you can restrict Facebook from accessing your location and even stop it from accessing your microphone, camera and other components. If you are running latest version of Android then the operating system lets you grant access to camera for a particular duration of time. While Facebook collects above mentioned data, it is important to note that the company does not snoop on your conversation via microphone. It also now lets users download all the data Facebook has access to from general settings on their profile.