Some advertisers are able to use data provided by Facebook to target ads based on social media users’ credit score, according to new report in the Intercept, stirring fresh concerns about the platform’s data sharing practices.
The tool in question is called “Actionable Insights”, which, as Facebook earlier stated, is used for the purposes of helping carriers provide better service in areas with weak cellular data connections, and is also aimed at enabling "better business decisions" through "analytics tools".
According to the documents obtained by the aforementioned edition, the tool makes use of the data it harvests – which includes eight different categories, such as geolocation updates, demographic information, and friends’ portfolios – to help Facebook’s multiple telecom partners with targeted advertising by handing them the aggregated data.
More specifically, Facebook data scientists are reported to have developed a special algorithm that enables the system to exclude customers with poor credit history from the advisers’ target lists, making conclusions about clients’ creditworthiness through their online behaviour.
Meanwhile, the social media titan collects enormous bulks of data, not only from its main iOS and Android apps, but also from the Messenger and Instagram apps, which couldn’t go unnoticed on Twitter.
“Nothing more skin-crawly than #Facebook using proprietary behavioural attributes”, wrote one user, with another cheekily remarking that a Facebook notification about the practice, proposed by some netizens, would do a dubious job as well:
nothing more skin-crawly than #Facebook using proprietary behavioral attributes mined covertly from yr data to evaluate whether you should receive a line of credit (or be allowed to travel, etc). Kafkaesque & Orwellian rolled into one dystopian nightmare https://t.co/jbe0UHL5Mq— Helen of desTroy (@velocirapture23) 21 мая 2019 г.
I think that Facebook has an obligation to tell its 2 billion users things like "the way you use our app could end up invisibly influencing credit-based opportunities you receive in the future" but I'm not sure that they agree https://t.co/gyREWnsRPy— Sam Biddle (@samfbiddle) 20 мая 2019 г.
A source familiar with the issue told the Intercept that the social network offers the data to telecoms and smartphone makers – some 100 different firms in 50 countries – purportedly free of charge, thus aiming to build and sustain reliable advertising relationships with them. When contacted, a Facebook spokesman noted to the media outlet that the Actionable Insights program indeed offers data useful to third-party advertisers, but stressed that no data is illegally pulled through this program that hasn’t already been collected from users’ devices.
However, the rhetoric is contrary to a scandal that rocked the social media world in December, when Facebook was caught sharing user data with over 150 companies without their consent, in violation of its 2011 FTC consent decree. The company, which has been deeply embroiled in a series of data privacy rows over the past year, is currently under investigation over its “partnerships” in New York.
Separately, just this month, the tech firm admitted having inadvertently collected the emails of up to 1.5 million users without them being aware of the practice. Yet, perhaps the biggest spat erupted last year, when it came to light that political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal information of roughly 97 million users without their consent, with Facebook admitting to having been aware of the breach since 2015.