Ten Ways in which Facebook has used your Data

With 1.2 billion monthly active users, Facebook has about a fifth of the world’s population hooked. In an age where Big Data (see: ‘What is big data?‘) is driving many business decisions, Facebook has access to the ultimate wealth of data in the world, which is reflected in its $100 billion valuation. Every post you make, every like you take, Facebook will be watching you.  

1. To track non members online

Just because you aren’t signed up doesn’t mean your online footprint is safe. Facebook was embroiled in controversy in late 2015 when a Belgian court ordered it to stop tracking non members. The moment any internet user visits a Facebook page, a cookie is installed that behaves like a digital GPS letting Facebook know your activity.

2. To tailor its advertising specifically to you 

Ever lent your laptop to your grandparents and then noticed that Facebook is suddenly advertising walking sticks, bingo sets and chair lifts? Well it’s no coincidence… Facebook monetizes its content by analysing and selling your data to advertisers who then target you with more appropriate ads.

3. To sell your information

Facebook Connect is an application that allows you to log onto over 15,000 sites with your Facebook account. For this small convenience, users unwittingly allow Facebook to share all its data with the other website including friend lists, likes, posts, cookies etc.


4. To track your movements – literally…

Facebook knows where you are, where you’ve been and where you plan to go. Even if you turn off the Facebook location settings on your smartphone, it can use data from events to keep an eye on you.

Pro Tip: If you have ever used the Nearby Friends feature on Facebook, then Facebook knows exactly where you are at all times using the GPS or WiFi location services on your device and can broadcast your location to your friends. You can disable this feature here

5. To experiment on you

The guys at Silicon Valley used you like a lab rat, and you had no idea. Facebook has performed numerous experiments and psychological research on its users. For example, in July 2014, it showed that it could alter people’s moods by showing them posts with a particularly positive or negative vibe and measuring their reaction via likes and comments. There was outrage at the perceived unethical experiments but the result is overwhelming: Facebook is so powerful it can alter people’s moods at will.


6. To profile your personality 

Facebook knows you better than most of your Facebook friends do. It gathers enough data to estimate your openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Further, it can even estimate your age, political bias, relationship status and sexuality. Don’t believe us? Check it out for yourself at applymagicsauce.com.

7. To understand where your interests lie

Not only does Facebook know what you’re liking, sharing and commenting, it also knows exactly how long you spend on each post. It measures exactly how long you look at each item while scrolling your newsfeed and thus gauges how interested you are in that type of post.

8. To train a facial recognition software to identify you in photos

 Facebook launched a facial recognition software that users experienced as tag suggestions on photos. This was launched in 2011 but removed due to privacy concerns. However, it has recently been reintroduced with a grand total of zero privacy improvements. Convenient or Creepy? You be the judge.

9. To make you the (unwitting) star in an advertisement

In 2011, Facebook had an advert format called ‘Sponsored Story’ which saw Facebook using members’ names and photos to advertise products they had liked, without compensation, or even their knowledge. One unfortunate victim of this was the gentleman who unknowingly became the face of a 55 gallon drum of lubricant. Truly a slippery slope for all involved.

10. To spy on you 

In the Snowden Leaks, Facebook was exposed to be handing over user information to the National Security Agency (NSA) under the Foreign Surveillance Act. Facebook has now vowed to push for further transparency regarding government access of data, but it seems like espionage has truly lost its glamour.



Remember the saying: If you’re using a commercial service and you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer – you’re the product.


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