Given its explicit mission to index the world’s data, you’d think Google would have the most data on you. That may be true but it’s turning out that Facebook comes a very close second. It has come under fire for its mishandling of the Cambridge Analytica matter and was forced to reveal more of its secrets. A whole heap of details has just been dumped for the public to see and you might be shocked or at least baffled at what Facebook is tracking.
The information comes via a 222-page document that the social network giant submitted to the US Congress. The document practically lays out in typed form what Mark Zuckerberg testified to at his April grilling, which some are now contesting to have been incomplete or even intentionally misleading. If poring over such a long document is already making your brain smoke, Business Insider already collected some of the rather curious bits that may or may not be public knowledge yet.
Some of the things that Facebook tracks are, admittedly, on par for the kind of service they provide. That would include the operating system, browser, carrier or ISP, and even IP address. That’s common practice, even if debatable. But there are some technical pieces of data that are perhaps superfluous, like plugins you have, timezone, or browser cookies.
Facebook also curiously collects data like mouse movements or whether the browser is in the foreground or running in the background. The social network defends this collection as a way to make sure that the logged in user is human and not a bot (pardon to the androids and synths out there). It’s debatable whether those pieces of data can be used to create a profile of a user.
But then there are the things that Facebook doesn’t exactly have any business knowing, whatever justification it might have. Things like other devices nearby or connected to the same network (which might not be yours in the first place), “online and offline actions”, purchases from third-party providers, and camera information fall under this category.
It’s quite clear that Facebook collects anything it can under the law and anything else it can get away with. The recent scandals and government scrutiny might help narrow down its scope but only time will tell if it will be able to find other loopholes to exploit.