Facebook Buys Offline User Data

Facebook wants to get to know its users better, whether users want it or not.

While many social media users actively give away some information about themselves — location, email, phone number, payment card info, etc. — Facebook reportedly purchases additional information without user knowledge from commercial data brokers to gain access to details of its users’ offline live.

The data Facebook collects from third parties includes categories such as user income, how many credit cards a user has, “ethnic affinity,” household income, where users shop most frequently, whether or not users shop at dollar stores and more. All told, ProPublica found some 52,000 categories and attributes Facebook uses to categorize its user base — at least 600 of which are described as provided by third parties.

Jeffrey Chester, executive director for the Center for Digital Democracy, was quoted as saying, “They’re not being honest. Facebook is bundling a dozen different data companies to target an individual customer, and an individual should have access to that bundle as well.”

Facebook has reportedly been working with data brokers since 2012, when Business Insider says the social media company signed a deal with consumer data collection company Datalogix. Since then, Facebook has reportedly signed on an additional five data brokers.

While Facebook has made strides to allow users to have greater control over their online privacy in recent years, users still don’t have access to what third-party companies provide about them. Facebook responded to questions raised about their data collection by saying, “Our approach to controls for third-party categories is somewhat different than our approach for Facebook-specific categories. The data providers we work with generally make their categories available across many different ad platforms, not just on Facebook.”

If, for whatever reason, users are uncomfortable with Facebook having access to all of this data in the name of targeted advertising, the user is tasked with contacting the data brokers that Facebook works with directly and requesting to limit the distribution of their data.


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