We’ve already learned quite a bit from Mark Zuckerberg’s grilling on Capitol Hill. But Zuckerberg also revealed another fact that is sure to worry anyone who doesn’t use Facebook. As many already suspected, Facebook collects data about non-users, too.
During Zuckerberg’s Wednesday appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Ben Lujan asked him whether or not Facebook collected data on users who did not have an account.
“In general we collect data on people who are not signed up for Facebook for security purposes,” Zuckerberg said. Lujan asked if these are what is known as “shadow profiles,” but Zuckerberg said he is “not familiar” with that term.
Lujan pointed out that, “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.” Zuckerberg fell back on the security reasoning, stating “We need to know when somebody is trying to repeatedly access our services” in order to “prevent people from scraping public information.”
It gets worse than just an admission of data collection without consent, though. Rep. Lujan investigated how to gain access to a record of data collected about non-users, and it’s a Catch-22.
“On Facebook’s page, when you go to ‘I don’t have a Facebook account and would like to request all my personal data stored by Facebook,’ it takes you to a form that says, ‘Go to your Facebook page, and then, on your account settings, you can download your data.’ So you’re directing people who don’t have access—don’t even have a Facebook page to have to sign up for a page to reach their data. We’ve got to fix that.”
As Bloomberg points out, former Facebook employee Antonio Garcia Martinez has said this non-user data is “collected for growth reasons as well.” If so, expect to see Zuckerberg answering many more questions, most likely surrounded by a small army of lawyers.–bloomberg