There have been endless complaints about privacy on Facebook, often leading to changes and better management tools. Just yesterday, the firm admitted to turning upwards of 7,000 user profiles to British authorities between January and June.
Opposing arguments suggest Facebook has strict privacy tools and that if you don't like it, you shouldn't put it online. However, a report from ProPublica reveals that even then you may not be safe.
According to the ProPublica, Facebook Inc. purchases data about its own users from third-party brokers without informing them. This information contains details about their offline lives, including income, hobbies, frequent visits and the number of credit cards.
The social media giant doesn't disclose any of this select information, arguing:
“Our approach to controls for third-party categories is somewhat different than our approach for Facebook-specific categories. This is because the data providers we work with generally make their categories available across many different ad platforms, not just on Facebook.”
The data brokers sell comes from a variety of sources, including loyalty cards, mailing lists, public records, browser cookies and more. This information can be combined to build a detailed profile of your offline life.
Unfortunately, Facebook doesn't provide an easy way to opt out of this. Requests must be made to each broker individually, and it's not as easy as a button click.
In most cases, brokers require an email or phone call before they'll stop selling your data. Some even require a written letter, as well as ID or social security number.
In most cases, this makes opting out more trouble than its worth. In fact, a ProPublica reporter found that 65 out of 95 brokers requested a form of ID. She found it almost impossible to remove her data from most of them.
What's more, Facebook changes the brokers it buys from regularly. This means users would have to check month-to-month and send letters to the new brokers each time.
“They are not being honest,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, to Pro Publica.“Facebook is bundling a dozen different data companies to target an individual customer, and an individual should have access to that bundle as well.”
You can view Facebook's list of data brokers on its Help Center.