The creepy ways Facebook spies on its users have been detailed in a bumper document presented to the American Congress.
They include tracking mouse movements, logging battery levels and monitoring devices close to a user that are on the same network.
The 454-page report was created in response to questions Mark Zuckerberg was asked during his appearance before Congress in April. Lawmakers gave Zuckerberg a public grilling over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but he failed to answer many of their queries.
The new report is Facebook’s attempt to address their questions, although it sheds little new light on the Cambridge Analytica scandal. However, it does contain multiple disclosures about the way Facebook collects data.
Some are unsurprising, such as the time people spend on Facebook, while others may come as a shock to the majority of users.
Facebook tracks what device you are using to access the network.
To do this, it will log the hardware manufacturer of your smartphone, connected television, tablet, computer, or other internet-connected devices. Facebook also tracks the operating system, software versions and web browser.
If you’re using a smartphone, it will keep a record of the mobile carrier, while internet service providers (ISPs) will be stored for users using a Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection to access Facebook. In some cases, it will monitor devices that are using the same network as you.
‘Facebook’s services inherently operate on a cross-device basis: understanding when people use our services across multiple devices helps us provide the same personalized experience wherever people use Facebook,’ the firm wrote in the lengthy document.
According to Facebook, this is done, for example, ‘to ensure that a person’s News Feed or profile contains the same content whether they access our services on their mobile phone or in a desktop computer’s web browser.’
Facebook also says this information is used to curate more personalized ads.
Facebook watches the movements of your computer mouse on-screen when you are interacting with the social network.
According to the company, this type of information ‘can help distinguish humans from bots.’
App and file names
Tracking the app you use to interact with Facebook helps the company learn the type of devices you favour.
Facebook keeps a note of the file names in your system for the same reason. This data is synced with your profile, and will influence the types of advertisements you see when you launch Facebook.
Facebook wants to learn about how you use its social network.
To do so, it records whether you keep your Facebook browser window at the foreground of your computer screen – or whether you tend to leave it in the background, hidden behind other windows. Facebook also watches the ‘operations and behaviours performed on the device’ while you’re active on the social network.
‘We collect information about how you use our Products, such as the types of content you view or engage with; the features you use; the actions you take; the people or accounts you interact with; and the time, frequency and duration of your activities,’ Facebook says.
‘For example, we log when you’re using and have last used our Products, and what posts, videos, and other content you view on our Products.
‘We also collect information about how you use features like our camera.’
The social network monitors a slew of different connections from your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or smart TV.
It monitors the signal strength of your mobile data connection (if you’re using one), Bluetooth signals, and information about the nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers. This data can be used to establish whether you typically use Facebook in one particular location, or when you’re on-the-move.
Nearby access points, beacons and cell towers can also be used to work out a rough location for the users, which Facebook can use to tailor search results and adverts.