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Facebook confirms to Congress it’s tracking everything it possibly can

Published Jun 12th, 2018 11:34PM EDT
Facebook User Tracking
Image: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/REX/Shutterstock

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If this were a Friends episode it would be titled The one where Facebook tracking gets even creepier because we simply didn’t see coming what’s about to follow.

Most Facebook users are already aware that Facebooks tracks their every move, even if they’re signed out of their accounts, or ditch Facebook altogether. The Cambridge Analytica scandal coupled with Europe’s new strict privacy laws brought all that to the forefront. Facebook was forced to publicly address the way it handles user data following the Cambridge Analytica revelations, and make changes to its privacy to fix some of those issues and simultaneously prepare for the GDPR law.

But that doesn’t mean we’ve learned everything there is to know about Facebook’s user tracking practices. It turns out they’re even more perverse than we could have fathomed.

Facebook delivered a 222-page document to the US Congress. The data release follows Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony in early April and is meant to offer more details about the way Facebook collects user data. Business Insider combed the document, finding out some pretty annoying data collection practices.

For example, Facebook records your mouse movements to make sure you’re a human, but also details about all the other devices around you. More worryingly, data about your “online and offline actions” is also gathered. I get the online part. But offline actions? As I said, this gets pretty creepy, pretty fast — here’s a list Business Insider put together:

  • Facebook records your mouse movements. This helps the company recognize that you are not a robot.
  • Another way Facebook distinguishes that you’re human is by monitoring whether your browser window is “foregrounded or backgrounded.”
  • Facebook collects a lot of data about your devices, including your battery level, signal strength, and available storage space.
  • Your operating system, browser type, file names, and plugins are also fair game for Facebook.
  • Facebook also knows your mobile operator, internet service provider, and IP address, as well as your cookie data, time zone, and internet connection speed.
  • And you’re not alone. The company said “in some cases” it monitors devices around its users or on the same network, so it “can do things like help users stream a video from their phone to their TV.”
  • The signals of your device are also monitored, including Bluetooth and information about nearby Wi-Fi access points. Nearby “cell towers” are also known to Facebook.
  • Facebook hoovers up your GPS location, camera information, and photos if you don’t lock down your settings. Call logs and SMS log history are also recorded if users choose to sync their Android devices or upload data.
  • Data about your “online and offline actions” and purchases from third-party providers is collected, in addition to information about the “games, apps, or accounts” people use.

Damn! #DeleteFacebook anyone?

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.