“Facebook knows literally everything about you,” is a direct quote from Romain Dillet at TechCrunch, who has managed to sum up in 6 words what the rest of us are beginning to come to terms with, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
As more information is made available and users take it upon themselves to find out exactly what Facebook tracks and why, some chilling patterns are emerging.
Interestingly, every individual has access to the data that Facebook has on them. It’s hidden in plain sight, in the ‘settings’ panel of the desktop version. To gain access, all you need to do is click on a link, enter your password and then an email will be sent to you with a zip file that there needs to be downloaded and within that file is all the information that Facebook has on you. At this stage, ignore everything else and click on ‘index.htm,’ although, the ‘everything else’ holds a lot of secrets also.
This process of gaining access to your own information, is interesting because users are doing so now more than ever, and publishing some of the findings. They have discovered that Facebook tracks what you’ve done on the social network, which is to be expected, but also the email addresses and phone numbers of all your friends.
But that’s not all.
Many users have discovered that the metadata of their SMS messages has been tracked also. Not on messenger, or on any app connected with Facebook, these are SMS messages on Android phones.
Additionally, there is a list of applications in the index.htm file. At first glance, it appears that these are applications that have been accessed through Facebook, but many of them are apps downloaded to a mobile device or laptop, that have nothing to do with Facebook at all.
Aside from that, there’s not much else. Except that Facebook records every single message you have ever sent to anyone ever on the platform. Remember that argument you had with your ex? Facebook does.
As billions of dollars are shaved off the value of Facebook, users have a right to ask if Facebook has ever been free, and if not then if the transaction – access to the platform in exchange for private information – was reasonable. As Cambridge Analytica continues to be positioned by Facebook as the solitary villain, some media outlets are pointing out that if Facebook didn’t store all this information, then there would be no way to gain access to it.
Perhaps it’s time to legislate terms and conditions – intentionally complicated T’s and C’s create a semblance of legality, but the stakes are much too high to allow this to continue.