Concern about Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) respect for data privacy is widening to include the information it collects about non-users, after Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the world’s largest social network tracks people whether they have accounts or not.
Privacy concerns have swamped Facebook since it acknowledged last month that information about millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, a firm that has counted U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral campaign among its clients.
Zuckerberg said on Wednesday under questioning by U.S. Representative Ben Luján that, for security reasons, Facebook also collects “data of people who have not signed up for Facebook.”
Lawmakers and privacy advocates immediately protested the practice, with many saying Facebook needed to develop a way for non-users to find out what the company knows about them.
“We’ve got to fix that,” Representative Luján, a Democrat, told Zuckerberg, calling for such disclosure, a move that would have unclear effects on the company’s ability to target ads. Zuckerberg did not respond. On Friday Facebook said it had no plans to build such a tool.
Critics said that Zuckerberg has not said enough about the extent and use of the data. “It’s not clear what Facebook is doing with that information,” said Chris Calabrese, vice president for policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a Washington advocacy group.
Facebook gets some data on non-users from people on its network, such as when a user uploads email addresses of friends. Other information comes from “cookies,” small files stored via a browser and used by Facebook and others to track people on the internet, sometimes to target them with ads.
“This kind of data collection is fundamental to how the internet works,” Facebook said in a statement to Reuters.
Asked if people could opt out, Facebook added, “There are basic things you can do to limit the use of this information for advertising, like using browser or device settings to delete cookies. This would apply to other services beyond Facebook because, as mentioned, it is standard to how the internet works.”
Facebook often installs cookies on non-users’ browsers if they visit sites with Facebook “like” and “share” buttons, whether or not a person pushes a button. Facebook said it uses browsing data to create analytics reports, including about traffic to a site.
The company said it does not use the data to target ads, except those inviting people to join Facebook.
Advocates and lawmakers say they are singling out Facebook because of its size, rivaled outside China only by Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google, and because they allege Zuckerberg was not forthcoming about the extent and reasons for the tracking.
“He’s either deliberately misunderstanding some of the questions, or he’s not clear about what’s actually happening inside Facebook’s operation,” said Daniel Kahn Gillmor, a senior staff technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Zuckerberg, for instance, said the collection was done for security purposes, without explaining further or saying whether it was also used for measurement or analytics, Gillmor said, adding that Facebook had a business incentive to use the non-user data to target ads.
Facebook declined to comment on why Zuckerberg referred to security only.
Gillmor said Facebook could build databases on non-users by combining web browsing history with uploaded contacts. Facebook said on Friday that it does not do so.
The ACLU is pushing U.S. lawmakers to enact broad privacy legislation including a requirement for consent prior to data collection.
The first regulatory challenge to Facebook’s practices for non-users may come next month when a new European Union law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), takes effect and requires notice and consent prior to data collection.
At a minimum, “Facebook is going to have to think about ways to structure their technology to give that proper notice,” said Woodrow Hartzog, a Northeastern University professor of law and computer science.
Facebook said in its statement on Friday, “Our products and services comply with applicable law and will comply with GDPR.”
The social network would be wise to recognize at least a right to know, said Michael Froomkin, a University of Miami law professor.
“If I’m not a Facebook user, I ought to have a right to know what data Facebook has about me,” Froomkin said.
Establishment Dems pressuring new congress members to attend AIPAC Israel junket: report
For years, freshman Democratic lawmakers have faced pressure to attend an AIPAC sponsored trip to Israel, where they were denied access to Gaza and other territories controlled by Israel.
The pressure remains stronger than ever today, reports The Intercept, even as Israel's mideast policy is increasingly questioned.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) assured AIPAC that this year the trip would be as well attended as it has been previously. “Like many of you, I’ve traveled to the communities in the south of Israel that have endured rockets and tunnels. I’ve traveled with over 150 of my fellow Democratic members of Congress to meet with those who live under the constant threat of terror,” he said in an April address to AIPAC.
Trump leveled by retired general for making Iran war decisions based on advice from Fox News hosts
During a panel discussion on the increased tensions between the U.S. and Iran after a drone was shot down by the Middle Eastern country in international airspace, a retired general claimed he was worried about Donald Trump's response based upon who it appears the president listens to when it comes to advice.
Speaking with host John Berman, retired Lt. General Mark Hertling warned that the shootdown was a dangerous provocation.
"It's huge, John," Hertling explained. "You can go all the way from backing down completely to a full-scale war -- that's what's dangerous about this situation."
DOJ money laundering probe of Deutsche Bank includes Kushner transactions: report
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is conducting a criminal investigation of possible money laundering violations by Deutsche Bank, and the New York Times is reporting that the probe will include taking a look at some 2016 transactions involving Kushner Cos. — the business owned by the family of Senior White House Advisor Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law.
In banking, reports of possibly suspicious activity are known as “suspicious activity reports,” and the DOJ is investigating why Deutsche Bank prepared such alerts for activity involving Kushner Cos. but did not file them. A key figure in the DOJ’s investigation is whistleblower Tammy McFadden, who helped prepare suspicious activity reports for Kushner Cos.-related transactions. McFadden is a former compliance officer for Deutsche Bank.