As concerns over Facebook’s privacy issues mount, it’s been revealed that the social media site is also collecting the data of non-users.
According to Reuters, CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted under questioning that Facebook also collects “data of people who have not signed up for Facebook,” claiming the practice was done for security purposes.
It didn’t take long for both lawmakers and privacy advocates to criticize the collection practice, with many calling for Facebook to develop a way for non-users to find out what the company knows about them.
“We’ve got to fix that,” U.S. Representative Ben Luján, a Democrat, told Zuckerberg. But on Friday, Facebook said it had no plans to build such a tool.
“This kind of data collection is fundamental to how the internet works,” Facebook said in a statement to Reuters.
As far as whether or not a non-user can opt out of having their data collected, the company explained, “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 gets some data on non-users from people in its network, such as when a user uploads their friends’ email addresses. Other information comes from “cookies,” which the site often installs on non-users’ browsers if they visit sites with Facebook “like” and “share” buttons, whether or not a person pushes a button.
While Facebook said it uses browsing data to create analytics reports, including information on site traffic, many have criticized Zuckerberg for not thoroughly explaining the extent and use of that 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.
The company said it does not use the data to target ads, except those inviting people to join Facebook.
This latest revelation will only turn up the heat on Facebook, which is being targeted not only because of its size, but also because 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 (ACLU).