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You can control what you share on Facebook - but not what Facebook itself collects

From CBC - April 11, 2018

One thing Mark Zuckerberg wants you to know is that on Facebook, you are in control.

Having spent the last two days before U.S. Congress, the Facebook co-founder and CEO answered an onslaught of questions about the types of user data Facebook collectsand whether Facebook has been upfront with its users about the collection it does.

But for the most part, Zuckerberg attempted to keepthe spotlight on users and the choices they have, rather than on what Facebook itself chooses to do.

When asked by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley why Facebook does not disclose all the ways user data might be collected and used by Facebookand its responsibility to inform users of those possibilitieshere's how Zuckerberg replied:

"I believe it's important to tell people exactly how the information that they share on Facebook is going to be used. That's why, every single time you go to share something on Facebookwhether it's a photo in Facebook, or a message in Messenger or WhatsAppevery single time, there's a control right there about who you are going to be sharing it with,whether it's your friends or public or a specific group. And you can change that and control that in-line."

For much of his marathon five-hour testimony on Tuesday, this is how Zuckerberg framed many of his responses to questions about privacy on Facebookaround the choices users have when they choose to share information about themselves.

But it seems like both a dodge and a clever misdirection. The broader issue is not whether users have enough control over who can see their Facebook posts, but whether users have a reasonable understanding of what else Facebook collects about them in the process.

User control

Thedeceivingly simple toggle between what's public and private obfuscates theextent of what Facebook also gathers from its users when they use the company's apps or websites. It'sinformation that, if plainly laid out, might make some people think twice about how much they are willing to let Facebook track their actions on the site.

Facebook explains some of what it tracksinformation it vaguely refers to as your "activity on Facebook apps and services." There's the obvious stuff: the pages you like, the information on your profile, the links you shareand the physical locations you visit. And it lets users opt out of havingFacebook track their browsing habits across the internet.

Tracking your habits

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