Facebook is Still Selling User Data
Facebook announced new terms of service that help clarify what it does and doesn’t sell about its users. On the one hand, it’s great that it’s clearer than before. On the other, it maintains its remarkable claim in the TOS is that “we do not sell and will not sell your information” while better explaining to us how they do just that.
Linguist Emily Bender first posted about this:
I retweeted and several helpful people chimed in to remind me that Facebook (now formally known as Meta) only serves targeted ads, not raw user data. They remind us that it would be business suicide for them to sell your personal data because then marketers would go straight to you.
Certainly it’s not in Facebook’s interest to sell your contact information or other personally identifying information (affectionately known as PII). But Marketers would not “go straight to you” if they thought buying ads on Facebook was cheaper and more effective. They might do both. And Facebook is not always known for doing what is in its own long-term best interest, with respect to privacy.
If you read the 2nd and third screenshots Ms. Bender posted, you notice that Facebook still provides marketing research to its paying clients, which almost certainly falls under a reasonable definition of “selling your data.”
Ad-tech clients pay Facebook to host their ads. Facebook provides them with marketing intelligence which is derived from your activities. But where is the line between group analytics and “your information?” Note that Google Analytics is coming under severe scrutiny in the EU and may be banned.
The TOS itself says the data that is being sold (er — “shared”) includes mainly information about ad engagement, including when and where ads were shown and what resulted. Were you on a porn site when that car ad showed up? Were you in a Lowes when they showed you an ad for Home Depot product, and did that change your behavior? It’s…