Facebook PR Admits That It ‘Tracks’ Non-Users

I always feel like somebody's watching me...

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Facebook’s international PR department is currently clashing with international researchers who discovered some unflattering information about the social network: it tracks personal data even when the individuals in question do not have Facebook accounts.

Whoops.

In a statement release two days ago, the Facebook team admitted that the researchers got some things right and that non-users have received “cookies” from the service, but claimed that this tracking of non-users was attributable to a “bug” and that they’re totally working on it.

In an interesting twist, some of the claims addressed by Facebook in the release did not appear in the original report. Its authors told The Guardian:

“Facebook’s latest press release (entitled ‘Setting the record straight’) attributes statements to us that we simply did not make.”

The primary issue at hand here involves users’ ability to opt out of social and “behavioral” ads which appear on sites that users visit outside of their news feeds. Facebook’s point is that these ads allow it to remain a free service and that users can choose not to receive them.

Since the researchers didn’t actually bring that topic up in their study, it would appear that Facebook has already anticipated this criticism and formulated its defense.

The exchange tells us that Facebook’s comms team will be aggressive in countering regulatory moves in Europe. Given the EU’s recent interactions with Google, we can understand why.