Here’s The Data Facebook Can Learn From Your Selfies

Here’s The Data Facebook Can Learn From Your Selfies

Today the Wall Street Journal listed all the data Facebook can grab when you upload a photo, based on Facebook’s privacy and data collection policies. The list illustrates what we’ve said before: Facebook doesn’t need to spy on your through your microphone, because you already let it spy on everything else you do.

Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

As the Journal says, Facebook gets your photo, your caption, and which user profiles you tagged. It studies your photos with facial recognition tech to see who’s in them. (That means if you take a photo in public, Facebook might recognise more faces in the shot than you do.) But it also gets a lot more.

By uploading a photo to Facebook, you’re sharing where and when you took the photo, what kind of phone you’re using, what specific phone you’re using (your unique device ID), your mobile provider, nearby Wi-Fi beacons and mobile towers (which can determine your current location), and more. You even share your battery level.

You can strip some of this data by editing the photo’s EXIF data or by changing your camera settings, but some data is shared just by opening the Facebook app. (Most social apps can get all the same data – the difference is whether they promise, or choose, not to.)

Facebook can then cross-reference all this data – so Facebook could theoretically record the location of anyone whose face it recognises, whether or not you tag them. It can also cross-reference this data with everything it already knows about you. And as we’ve seen, this can make Facebook seem positively psychic.

It’s hard to remember that every time you share a small bit of data with Facebook, it learns so much about you. But as news comes out from Mark Zuckerberg’s Senate testimony, expect to hear a lot more about just what you’ve been sharing.

How Pizza Night Can Cost More in Data Than Dollars (paywall) [WSJ]


  • I really feel sorry for those who grew up in the post internet/Social media era. If you never had privacy you don’t know how much it means to have it being taken away.

    On the other hand, my empathy abates somewhat because mass compliance and a general lack of concern about privacy has made this form of invasive existence so prevalent and difficult to avoid if you want to stay connected with society at a semi functioning level.

    The latest Facebook shenanigans will open a few eyes, cause a bit of concern and then conveniently be forgotten about once more. The only real change is that privacy invasion and the use of data mining will make companies more creative and overall less transparent about how they obtain this information. Data mining has never made monitoring and influencing a populous more convenient and there’s no way that power will be given up.

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