Facebook has revealed new information regarding its user data collection processes in light of the ongoing Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal.
In a blog post, Facebook product management director David Baser went over how the company gathers user data from other websites and apps, what they do with the data and what controls users have over this data.
To start, Baser explained that a user’s browser (such as Chrome or Safari) shares their IP address and browser and operating system (like Android or Windows) with the website being visited.
In exchange, the website sends back the content on its site and instructions for the browser to send the user’s request to the other companies providing content or services on the site. Facebook receives all of this data as well, Baser said, as well as information on which website or app is being used. Baser said this data collection process is the same for any website or app, including YouTube, Google or Twitter, not just Facebook.
Baser said the company uses the data for three purposes: “providing our services to these sites or apps; improving safety and security on Facebook; and enhancing our own products and services.” However, he stressed that Facebook doesn’t ever sell this information to anyone.
Firstly, Baser said the data helps run social plugins and logins to keep the app running properly, analytics for websites and developers and ads and related ad measurement tools.
In terms of security, Baser said that collecting information from websites and apps can help Facebook identify “bad actors” like people or bots from different countries trying to access a user’s account.
Finally, Facebook says the data it receives can help improve the content and ads shown in the app, such as more sports-related content for users who demonstrate an interest in sports.
The blog post concluded by going over what controls users have over their data. According to Baser, users can set News Feed preferences to see manage what content is seen first in their feeds, or what they want hidden altogether. As well, users can opt to have their News Feeds display content chronologically instead of in the order of what Facebook predicts they might be most interested in.
Baser said ad preferences can also be set to prevent specific advertisers from showing ads on Facebook. Users who don’t want their Facebook interests to show ads on other websites and apps can prohibit this in these settings as well.
“Whether it’s information from apps and websites, or information you share with other people on Facebook, we want to put you in control — and be transparent about what information Facebook has and how it is used,” Baser wrote in conclusion. “We’ll keep working to make that easier.”
Baser’s full blog post can be viewed here.