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Facebook tracks you even if you’re not a user, and you can’t really do anything about it

Published Apr 16th, 2018 11:13AM EDT
Facebook Tracking Non-users

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We’ve talked about the fact that Facebook is tracking everyone online — even people who choose not to open a Facebook account — long before the Cambridge Analytica revelations came to light. But now that Mark Zuckerberg had to face Congress twice in as many days, we know for a fact that Facebook is indeed doing it. The good news is that, well, we know Facebook is doing it, which means regulators may find ways to stop the practice. But the bad news is that you can’t really do anything about it for the time being, and Facebook doesn’t plan to offer non-users access to the information about them that the service collects.

Zuckerberg told U.S. Representative Ben Luján on Wednesday that Facebook collects “data of people who have not signed up for Facebook” for security reasons. However, he never explained what these reasons are, nor did he explain what Facebook is doing with the information it gathers, aside from using it for security purposes.

“This kind of data collection is fundamental to how the internet works,” Facebook told Reuters in a statement. Facebook uses cookies to collect non-users data, but people can’t really opt out.

“There are basic things you can do to limit the use of this information for advertising, like using browser or device settings to delete cookies,” Facebook said when asked if users could opt out. “This would apply to other services beyond Facebook because, as mentioned, it is standard to how the internet works.”

That is true, but you’d have to rinse and repeat that operation over and over. Also, that doesn’t limit Facebook’s ability to collect data on you, and it doesn’t let you delete any of the info the company has on you.

Facebook said it uses browsing data to create analytics reports about traffic to a site, and that it doesn’t use the data to target ads, aside from the ones inviting you to join the social network. Facebook also gets data about non-users when users upload contact information. Facebook said it doesn’t combine cookie data with data from uploaded contacts.

Lawmakers, including Representative Luján, want Facebook to build a tool that would allow non-users to find out what the company knows about them. For the time being, however, Facebook has no plans to create such a tool, Reuters said.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.