Technology Facebook fuels broad privacy debate by tracking non-users

00:41  17 april  2018
00:41  17 april  2018 Source:   reuters.com

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a close up of a building: A Facebook logo is pictured at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt © REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo A Facebook logo is pictured at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt Concern about Facebook Inc's respect for data privacy is widening to include the information it collects about non-users, after Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the world's largest social network tracks people whether they have accounts or not.

Privacy concerns have swamped Facebook since it acknowledged last month that information about millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, a firm that has counted U.S. President Donald Trump's 2016 electoral campaign among its clients.

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Some people don’t want to be tracked by Facebook , so they don’t register an account with the site. “Our buttons and plugins send over basic information about users ’ browsing sessions. For non - Facebook members, previously we didn’t use it.

Facebook confirmed that this broad user tracking function remains untouched in Beacon, despite the changes announced Wednesday, a As long as Beacon silently tracks logged-off, former and non -members, people who use Facebook and the sites affiliated with Beacon face a privacy threat

Zuckerberg said on Wednesday under questioning by U.S. Representative Ben Luján that, for security reasons, Facebook also collects "data of people who have not signed up for Facebook."

Lawmakers and privacy advocates immediately protested the practice, with many saying Facebook needed to develop a way for non-users to find out what the company knows about them.

"We've got to fix that," Representative Luján, a Democrat, told Zuckerberg, calling for such disclosure, a move that would have unclear effects on the company's ability to target ads. Zuckerberg did not respond. On Friday Facebook said it had no plans to build such a tool.

Critics said that Zuckerberg has not said enough about the extent and use of the data. "It's not clear what Facebook is doing with that information," said Chris Calabrese, vice president for policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a Washington advocacy group.

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Facebook confirmed that this broad user tracking function remains untouched in Beacon, despite the changes announced Wednesday, a As long as Beacon silently tracks logged-off, former and non -members, people who use Facebook and the sites affiliated with Beacon face a privacy threat

The company says it will be able to better target non - Facebook users and serve relevant ads to them, though its practices An independent report from the Belgian Privacy Commission last year criticized Facebook for tracking users who had logged out, as well as those who didn't even have an account.

COOKIES EVERYWHERE

Facebook gets some data on non-users from people on its network, such as when a user uploads email addresses of friends. Other information comes from "cookies," small files stored via a browser and used by Facebook and others to track people on the internet, sometimes to target them with ads.

"This kind of data collection is fundamental to how the internet works," Facebook said in a statement to Reuters.

Asked if people could opt out, Facebook added, "There are basic things you can do to limit the use of this information for advertising, like using browser or device settings to delete cookies. This would apply to other services beyond Facebook because, as mentioned, it is standard to how the internet works."

Facebook often installs cookies on non-users' browsers if they visit sites with Facebook "like" and "share" buttons, whether or not a person pushes a button. Facebook said it uses browsing data to create analytics reports, including about traffic to a site.

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Social network claims privacy report commissioned by the Belgian privacy watchdog ‘gets it wrong multiple times’ over what Facebook does with user data.

A Belgian court has now ordered Facebook to stop tracking users after it discovered that the company was breaking privacy laws by using cookies and social plugins to invisibly track Facebook users and non - users around the web.

The company said it does not use the data to target ads, except those inviting people to join Facebook.

TARGETING FACEBOOK

Advocates and lawmakers say they are singling out Facebook because of its size, rivalled outside China only by Alphabet Inc's Google, and because they allege Zuckerberg was not forthcoming about the extent and reasons for the tracking.

"He's either deliberately misunderstanding some of the questions, or he's not clear about what's actually happening inside Facebook's operation," said Daniel Kahn Gillmor, a senior staff technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Zuckerberg, for instance, said the collection was done for security purposes, without explaining further or saying whether it was also used for measurement or analytics, Gillmor said, adding that Facebook had a business incentive to use the non-user data to target ads.

Facebook declined to comment on why Zuckerberg referred to security only.

Gillmor said Facebook could build databases on non-users by combining web browsing history with uploaded contacts. Facebook said on Friday that it does not do so.

Senators propose legislation to protect the privacy of users’ online data after Facebook hearing

  Senators propose legislation to protect the privacy of users’ online data after Facebook hearing Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Kennedy (R-LA) will introduce legislation to protect the privacy of users’ online data, the pair said today in a joint statement. Though a bill has not been drafted yet, the legislation would, among other things, give users recourse options if their data is breached, and the right to opt out of data tracking and collection. The proposed legislation will address seven key points, the senators said:Give consumers the right to opt out and keep their information private by disabling data tracking and collection.Give users greater access to and control over their data.

Facebook is under the scanner of various governments for breaching privacy laws Reuters. Facebook has once again come under fire for its privacy policies. In February, Facebook was pulled up by French authorities in a similar probe for tracking non - users data and sending them to the US.

The social network will show ads to non - Facebook users on other websites. Since 2011, the group has been working on recommendations for a simple mechanism for consumers to express their privacy preferences to the broad range of companies that now get access to their data.

The ACLU is pushing U.S. lawmakers to enact broad privacy legislation including a requirement for consent prior to data collection.

The first regulatory challenge to Facebook's practices for non-users may come next month when a new European Union law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), takes effect and requires notice and consent prior to data collection.

At a minimum, "Facebook is going to have to think about ways to structure their technology to give that proper notice," said Woodrow Hartzog, a Northeastern University professor of law and computer science.

Facebook said in its statement on Friday, "Our products and services comply with applicable law and will comply with GDPR."

The social network would be wise to recognise at least a right to know, said Michael Froomkin, a University of Miami law professor.

"If I'm not a Facebook user, I ought to have a right to know what data Facebook has about me," Froomkin said.

(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Peter Henderson and Richard Chang)

WhatsApp says users must be 16 or older to access the app in Europe .
WhatsApp is banning anyone under 16 years old from using its app in Europe. It’s raising the age limit by three years just as the European data privacy rules start kicking in on May 25th, as spotted by Reuters. When users in Europe log onto the app in the next few weeks, they’ll be asked to confirm their age when accepting the new terms of service and an updated privacy policy. WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, has a separate data policy of its own.

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