By David Ingram
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc's privacy concerns are broadening to include information about non-users after CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the largest social network the world is tracking people you have accounts or not.
Privacy concerns have flooded Facebook since it confirmed last month that information about millions of users has mistakenly reached the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, a company that has counted US President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign among its clients.
Zuckerberg said Wednesday, as part of a poll by US Representative Ben Luján, that Facebook, for security reasons, also collects "data from people who have not signed up for Facebook."
Legislators and privacy advocates immediately protested against the practice, and many said Facebook needed to develop a way for non-users to find out what the company knew about them.
"We need to change that," Democrat Luján told Zuckerberg, calling for such disclosure, which did not clearly affect the company's ability to target ads. Zuckerberg did not answer. On Friday, Facebook said it has no plans to build such a tool.
Critics said Zuckerberg did not say enough about the scope and use of the data. "It's not clear what Facebook is doing with this information," said Chris Calabrese, vice president of politics at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a lobby group in Washington.
Facebook receives some data from non-users of people on its network, such as: For example, when a user uploads e-mail addresses from friends. Other information comes from "cookies", small files that are stored through a browser and used by Facebook and others to track people on the Internet, sometimes to target them with advertising.
"This type of data collection is fundamental to how the Internet works," Facebook said in a statement to Reuters.
Asked if someone could sign out, Facebook added, "There are basic things you can do to restrict the use of this information for advertising, such as using browser or device settings to delete cookies. This would apply to services other than Facebook. As I said, it is standard on how the Internet works. "
Facebook often installs cookies on other users' browsers when these sites use Facebook's Like Like & Share buttons regardless of whether a person clicks a button or not. Facebook said it uses browser data to create analytics reports, including traffic to a site.
The company has indicated that the data will not be used to target ads, except for those who invite users to join Facebook.
Proponents and legislators say they prefer Facebook because of its size, competing outside of China only through Alphabet Inc Google, and because they claim Zuckerberg has not appeared on the scale and reasons for the tracking ,
"Either he deliberately misunderstands some of the questions, or he does not know exactly what's actually happening in the Facebook operation," said Daniel Kahn Gillmor, Senior Technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Zuckerberg, for example, said the collection was made for security reasons without further explanation or testimony of whether it was also used for measurements or analysis, Gillmor said, adding that Facebook has a business incentive to User data to use destination displays
Facebook declined to comment on why Zuckerberg referred only to safety.
According to Gillmor, Facebook could create databases with non-users by combining the browsing history with uploaded contacts. Facebook said Friday that it is not.
The ACLU urges US legislators to enact comprehensive privacy laws, including a consent form prior to data collection.
The first regulatory challenge to Facebook's practices for non-users could come next month when a new EU law, the so-called General Data Protection Regulation (DSGVO), enters into force and must be terminated before data collection.
At least, "Facebook has to think about how to structure its technology to provide the right message," said Woodrow Hartzog, professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University.
Facebook said in its statement Friday: "Our products and services comply with applicable law and will comply with the GDPR."
The social network would be wise to recognize at least a right to knowledge, said Michael Froomkin, law professor at the University of Miami.
"If I'm not a Facebook user, I should have a right to know what Facebook has about me," Froomkin said.
(Reporting by David Ingram, edited by Peter Henderson and Richard Chang)