DUMPSTER FIRE Facebook has been plying telecoms firms with users' private data without their knowledge or consent, according to a report at The Intercept.
Confidential documents seen by the website show that Facebook is helping operators and phone makers - some 100 different companies in 50 countries - to create targeted advertising by supplying them with surveillance data slurped directly from users' smartphones.
Through a tool called 'Actionable Insights', which the social network announced last year "to address the issue of weak cellular data connections in various parts of the world", Facebook is collecting data including technical details about smartphones, cellular and WiFi networks used by Facebook users, locations visited social groups and interests.
Facebook collects the data not only from its main iOS and Android apps but also from Messenger and Instragram apps, according to the report, which adds that the firm is slurping info from the phones of children as young as 13
This data is then provided to selected partners to help them evaluate where they stand against their competitors in the market and to enable them to serve targeted ads to customers.
Facebook has also marketed the use of the information for the purpose of screening customers on the basis of likely creditworthiness, The Intercept notes, which could potentially run afoul of federal law.
"In this example, Facebook explained how one of its advertising clients, based outside the S, wanted to exclude individuals from future promotional offers on the basis of their credit," the report claims.
"Using data provided through Actionable Insights, a Data Science Strategist, a role for which Facebook continues to hire, was able to generate profiles of customers with desirable and undesirable credit standings."
In a statement, however, Facebook said "we do not, nor have we ever, rated people's credit worthiness for Actionable Insights or across ads, and Facebook does not use people's credit information in how we show ads."
A source familiar with the matter told The Intercept that Facebook is offering the data to companies gratis in order to strengthen its advertising relationships with them.
AFacebook spokesperson told The Intercept that the Actionable Insights programme offers data useful to third-party advertisers in smartphone and telecommunication industries. The spokesperson also highlighted that no data is pulled through this programme that wasn't already being collected from users' devices. µ
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