Reporting on Facebook is a double-edged sword. On one hand, the company makes so many newsworthy decisions and impacts so many lives that it’s impossible not to talk about them. But on the other, it’s tough to appear objective when Facebook does so many creepy things!
OK, maybe “creepy” is too strong a word, but how else do you describe the repeated privacy violations, selling user data to advertisers and outright deception about how the company’s tools work? Tap or click here to see how Facebook’s new features don’t really do much for your privacy.
And now, Facebook is under fire yet again for not being totally truthful when it comes to its new Download Your Info feature. The settings option is supposed to tell you which advertisers use your personal data, but researchers found the advertisers change every month! So what’s really going on?
Facebook leaves out information, surprising no one
Privacy advocates are yet again criticizing Facebook for its lack of commitment to data transparency. The UK-based charity Privacy International recently investigated Facebook’s Download Your Info tool and found it fails to show users a complete count of the advertisers your data is shared with.
Not only is the company failing to provide all the information it should be, but the list of advertisers accessing your data seems to change from month to month.
In a blog post on the charity’s website, Privacy International explains how it used the tool to download a copy of Facebook’s user data and advertising partners. After checking again the following month, they discovered the names of the advertisers accessing user data was completely different.
The list only included the names of the advertisers and provided no contact information so users can opt-out if they wish to.
On a similar note, Facebook’s new Off-Facebook Activity feature also fails to shed any additional light on advertiser practices. After using the tool extensively, Privacy International came to the conclusion that the data the tool provides is not complete.
Just like with Download Your Info, you only get names of businesses but no additional contact information. There is also no information on how your data is collected by advertisers.
Advertisers have access to your personal data, including your first name, email address, phone number, gender, home country and date of birth. It’s transparency alright — but only for advertisers! How is any of this fair?
Incompetent or calculating?
Facebook has made so many privacy mistakes in the past few years that it would be easy to assume incompetence or lack of preparation. But some of the lingering effects of the company’s decisions make way more sense when you consider the uphill regulatory battle it faces.
In the European Union, a law called the General Data Protection Regulation was passed to protect users and their data from advertisers. Users are supposed to be allowed to see how their data is used, as well as be able to request copies of their information from advertisers if they choose to.
But Facebook’s decision to have its privacy tools hide certain advertisers each month — and only show a few company names — puts a snag in this regulation. According to Privacy International, as a user, “you can’t exercise your rights under GDPR because you don’t know which companies have uploaded data to Facebook.”
At the same time, the companies you would actually be able to exercise your rights with can’t be contacted with nothing more than their names to go by. It certainly makes Facebook’s decisions seem less clumsy and more calculating.
This is purely speculation, but let’s not act like Facebook is some kind of moral paragon when Cambridge Analytica happened. Tap or click here to see how Facebook used your data politically.
It just gives more credence to Kim’s original take on the matter: It might be time to break up with Facebook, but breaking up with the social media giant is worth your security. Tap or click here to see more of Kim’s thoughts on Facebook.
Alternatively, if you want to enjoy the benefits of a social network without all the privacy “gotchas,” check out the Komando Community here at Komando.com. It’s secure, ad-free and gives you exclusive access to The Kim Komando Show online.