Facebook caught sharing user data with phone carriers, showing ads based on creditworthiness

Facebook may not be serious about protecting user privacy after all.

Stay informed on privacy and free speech rights

If you’re tired of censorship and surveillance, subscribe to Reclaim The Net.

It seems Facebook may have not been really serious in addressing privacy issues, says a new report from Intercept. According to the report, Facebook is still sharing personal data that includes locations, interests and social groups with mobile phone carriers.

The report was based on an internal Facebook document reviewed by the Intercept. It reveals that through mobile carriers and phone makers, surveillance data is pulled straight from a smartphone by no other than your friendly neighborhood privacy invader, Facebook. This data is then offered to selected Facebook partners.

What’s worse is the fact that this is not just technical data such as information about devices and use of Wi-Fi and cellular networks but personal information such as location, interests and social groups.

Additionally, this data was not only gathered from Facebook’s iOS and Android mobile apps alone but also through Instagram and Facebook Messenger. This data is obviously used by companies to serve targeted ads to users based on their creditworthiness.

This is, of course, tantamount to violating federal law that governs credit assessments. For Facebook, it may seem that such data sharing is harmless and is even beneficial to consumers – but underneath, experts know that there are implications of this that will benefit big companies.

The Intercept’s Sam Biddle commented on the legality aspect of what Facebook is doing:

“Some experts are particularly alarmed that Facebook has marketed the use of the information — and appears to have helped directly facilitate its use, along with other Facebook data — for the purpose of screening customers on the basis of likely creditworthiness [for ad serving]. Such use could potentially run afoul of federal law, which tightly governs credit assessments.”

Last year, Facebook announced Actionable Insights which are tools to help Facebook partners improve their connectivity and solve weak cellular data connections. According to Facebook, they are building a diverse set of technologies, products, and partnerships that are designed to expand the boundaries of existing connectivity quality and performance, catalyze new market segments and bring better access to the unconnected.

What the article didn’t emphasize is the fact that Actionable Insights’ second purpose is to enable better business decisions. And this is where personal data comes in handy specifically when companies opt to buy for more targeted ads from Facebook.

In related news, Consumer Reports found out that not all users can easily opt-out of facial recognition feature of Facebook. This is 18 after the new feature was announced. The report finds out that only 25% of those accounts they’ve examined were able to opt out while the rest miss this in Facebook privacy settings.

Stay informed on privacy and free speech rights

If you’re tired of censorship and surveillance, subscribe to Reclaim The Net.

What’s your email address?


Get news, solutions, tools, and analysis to push back against censorship and privacy invasion.