You're on Facebook, Even If You Don't Have an Account

Yes, even if you didn’t create an account. How come, you ask?

This is done by different functions that encourage users to hand personal data of other users and non-users to Facebook…[1]

The most obvious case is when one of your friends sync his phone with Facebook, and you’re one of his contacts. At that point your phone number, and other information (it’s safe to assume photo and email address, if friend have set it) will be send to Facebook servers and stored there, then used in cross-matching contact data to other users.[2]

The same is true for importing personal data from e-mail providers, importing personal information from instant messaging services, sending invitations to friends or saving search queries when users search for other people on Facebook.

Facebook is not denying it:

[…] users should already know about the contact collection practices because they are told about it on this page.[2]

Of course that’s true for a person who’s synchronizing data, but it’s not true for a person who’s data is being send and stored. In other words, the user who’s data is being collected have no say in it.

The second source of information about users are social widgets on third party websites (e.g. Comments Widget, Like Button, etc.), there’s more information collected about users, of course, but it’s save to assume that non-users are being tracked too:

The information provided in this request, which comes from your machine to Facebook, includes your IP address (showing your geographic area), browser type and version, the page you’re on, any Facebook cookies on your machine (which include your unique Facebook user ID), and potentially more information. This exchange happens regardless of whether you’re logged in to Facebook at the time, regardless of whether you click the button, and used to happen regardless of whether you were even a member of Facebook (they claim that’s been fixed).[3][4]

The creepiness does not end here of course. If a anyone took a photo of you, and posted it on Facebook, your face is now one among many of ghost faces[5] stored and improved with each new photo of you uploaded. That’s true for a photo taken with your full awareness by a friend, or a photo taken by a random stranger on a street, which you’re completely unaware of, and on which your face is only one in a big crowd somewhere in the background.

Facebook actually makes masks out of everyone’s faces. It’s happening whether you get tagged in the photo or not.[5]

If a photo was taken by a person who knows you, he can tag you with your full name, although you’re a non member.

So what can you do about it. There’s a couple of simple things which can help:

  • Ask your friends not to save full information about you in their phone (no full name, date of birth, photo).
  • Install Ghostery extension for your Browser.
  • Avoid being photographed by people addicted with Facebook.
  • Spread the information.

Finally, to clarify, I’m not suggesting you should become paranoid, and avoid walking in public, neither I’m suggesting taking photos of anyone (in a public place) should be forbidden. This is entirely on Facebook and a reasonable boundary which they should have when it comes to privacy.