Facebook changed the way we use the Internet. Until a few years ago, while communicating through a chat or a forum, we were used to provide fake information and pseudonyms, in order to preserve our identity.
After the spread of Facebook, we decided not only to make public our biographical data, but also to grant the service providers with personal information concerning our everyday life. Since sharing personal information over the social networks has become part of our daily routine, we are continuously asking the social networks to process many personal data, maybe more than we could expect.
This article focuses on the origin, the path and the content of the information we share, using as a guide the privacy policies and the user’s agreement issued by Facebook, that we accepted while subscribing to the service.
Personal information WE share
When subscribing to Facebook, we are requested to provide several mandatory information (§ 1.1.1.), such as our real name, email address, birthday, and gender. Those are the first information we decide to share, and they are generally shown to the open public: not only random Facebook users may look at those data, but also Google might index them. Have you ever tried to “google” your name? You could easily find your Facebook profile, if you did not turn public search off. That is just the first part of the information we ask Facebook to process; while using Facebook we constantly decide to share with the social network many other information, such as photos, updates on what we are doing or thinking, information about our personal tastes (our favourite book, film, singer, etc.), but also data on our relationship and family ties.
Personal Information OTHERS share about US
First of all, we have to assume that every interaction made with Facebook, it is a shared data (§1.1.3.). Facebook might record every single action you take on the social network: Facebook knows when you look at another person’s profile and how many times you do it. Here is a small example: Facebook has recently added a “lists” section, where it suggests you to add some people to a list labelled “closest friends”; Facebook suggests you that those friends are the people you interact with (or stalk) the most.
On the other hand, we must understand that the information we share is multimedia kind of information (§1.1.3). In fact, when you upload a photo taken with your mobile phone, you ask Facebook to process a large number of information contained in that file. Every time we take a picture with our camera or mobile phone, the device inserts as well, in addition to the photo, various information, the so-called meta-data, such as the time, date, and GPS position of the place you took the photo or the video. And Facebook might record it.
In addition to the above, Facebook receives data whenever we visit a site that incorporates the Social Plugin technology, better known as the “Like Button”. As a result, when we are logged into Facebook, the social network knows the web addresses of the pages we are visiting, and many technical information about the IP address, browser and the operating system we use. For instance, if you are one of the 70% Internet users that visit porn related web sites, you should be aware that if you did not logged out from Facebook, the social network is processing data concerning your sexual preferences. And you authorized it. The good news is that Facebook keeps this information for 90 days; after that period, the social network removes any personally identifying information from the data, or combines it with other people’s data.
Who owns the information we share?
What does Facebook do with our personal data?
In accordance with § 1.4. of Facebook Data Use Policy, the social network uses the personal information we share “in connection with the services and features” provided to the users, but also in connection with “the advertisers that purchase ads on the site, and the developers that build the games and applications”.
Therefore, Facebook process our personal data in order to provide us with the service we required, and to sell data to the advertisers, largely without any personally identifying information. Today Facebook is worth millions of dollars because it is the largest and most comprehensive database ever created for marketing. As someone said, “if you are not paying for it you’re not the customer you’re the product being sold”.