It looks like even those who haven’t signed up for Facebook aren’t immune to the social media platform’s data collection techniques.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who faced comparatively tougher questions on second day of his testimony before Congress, admitted something that had been reported before but never confirmed: the social media giant also gathers information on internet consumers aren’t even registered for the social network – because of security reasons, apparently.
“In general we collect data on people who are not signed up for Facebook for security purposes," Zuckerberg told the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
His statement came in response to Democratic Rep. Ben Lujan’s question about the company’s privacy practices.
The New Mexico lawmaker asked the 33-year-old tech CEO how many data points Facebook collected on each user, before citing reports claiming could be up to 29,000.
Zuckerberg said he didn't know.
Lujan then inquired how many data points the company collected on non-users. When Zuckerberg replied the same as before, the Democrat asked if Facebook had “detailed profiles on people who have never signed up for Facebook.”
The lawmaker said the practice creates “shadow profiles.” According to Gizmodo, Facebook does so by accessing data from inboxes and phone contacts of its active users.
“You’ve said everyone controls their data, but you’re collecting data on people that are not even Facebook users who have never signed a consent, a privacy agreement,” Lujan continued.
He also explained how non-users who want to know what kind of data Facebook has collected about them are directed to sign up for the service.
“We’ve got to fix that,” the lawmaker said.
However, Zuckerberg insisted it was all about security.
When asked if users could avoid having Facebook created these profiles of them, the CEO explained, “Anyone can turn off and opt out of any data collection for ads, whether they use our services or not” – though he suggested the social network would still need to collect some non-user data for security reasons, like preventing external sources from gathering public information from Facebook users.
“In order to prevent people from scraping public information […] we need to know when someone is repeatedly trying to access our services,” Zuckerberg added.
This is not the first time the topic of Facebook’s “shadow profiles” has popped up.
In 2013, the social network issued a statement claiming it had fixed a bug that “may have allowed some of a person’s contact information (email or phone number) to be accessed by people who either had some contact information about that person or some connection to them.”
Thumbnail / Banner : Reuters, Leah Millis