Facebook detects and stores everything you type on the social network even if the message is not published.

facebook-monitors-everything-you-type-even-if-you-dont-post-a-comment-or-update

Most of us are very cautious about what to post on  Facebook, and they therefore think a lot before pressing enter to post the content they have written or attached. Well many of you would love to know what someone wrote or attached and then decided not to post.

This is a privilege we cannot have, but our browser code enables Facebook to check what we have written or attached and then decided to back out of the post. So this means that things which you think are not appropriate to be shared or are personal are after all not so personal once you have written them or attached them to your Facebook interaction points.

These un-posted content is called by Facebook by as “self-censorship” and the insight about how Facebook gathers these content has been recently written in a paper by two Users of Facebook. Sauvik Das who is a Ph.D student and a summer intern at Facebook, and Adam Kramer who is a Data scientists, have published an online article which provides details about the self-censorship behavior of Facebook which is based on the data from 5 million users of this social media platform. The papers reveals a good detail of how Facebook tracks or monitor are un-shared content and what does it thinks about it.

The study includes the examination of status updates, posts made on the timeline of other people, and comments made on the posts of others, which are aborted at the last moment. To collect this data, Facebook sends out a code to the browser that you are using. This code automatically studies the data which you type and abort, and sends a Meta data report back to Facebook.

Storing text as you type is not something which is not common with other websites. You can take the example of Gmail which automatically saves your draft messages as you are typing them. Even if the browser is closed without the message saved, you will find the complete content that you wrote saved to your drafts folder. The difference with Gmail is that they are doing so to help out their user. When it comes to Facebook, this activity is not helping for anyone and neither Facebook has any intention of helping out users with that.

To many average readers and users, it is unclear that how this activity of Facebook is covered in their privacy policy. In the policy section of the company which relates to the receipt and use of information, they have explicitly mentioned that the company will collect all information that you share and the interactions that you make with others. But there is nothing mentioned about the information that we do not share or opt out of sharing. Typing some data and not sharing it may fall in the interaction that the company has suggested in its policy. But no one would have expected that even this information would be saved. A representative of the company is of the belief that this self-censorship is something which is considered as interaction and is covered in the privacy policy of the company.

The article from Kramer and Das suggests that only the information that indicated that you have self-censored in sent back to Facebook and not the information that you type. The representative of Facebook told that the company is not collecting any of such data but he admitted that technologically it is possible to do so. It is also evident that the company has interest in the data that you type and then decide not to share. The article from Kramer and Das ended with the note that:

  • “we have arrived at a better understanding of how and where self-censorship manifests on social media; next, we will need to better understand what and why.”

A connection can be easily made between all that surveillance being done by NSA and this self-censorship act by Facebook. But there is a clear difference between these activities. The difference is that all the Meta data or information that NSA is analyzing to study the behavior and activities of the people is the data that people actually share or post online. Facebook on the other hand is analyzing those thoughts which we have intentionally opted not to share.

A similar revelation was made about FBI where they have devised a way to activate the computer camera of any individual without flashing the activation light. In this way the video of an individual which the in individual does not want to share is being shared. Similar is the case with the self-censorship as you self-censor what you do not want to share.

So you can say that Facebook does not like your discretion of not to share something which you initially thought of sharing. It analyzes your thoughts which you refrain from sharing and understands them so a system can be devised that can minimize this sort of behavior.


Waqas

Waqas Amir is a Milan-based cybersecurity journalist with a passion for covering latest happenings in cyber security and tech world. In addition to being the founder of this website, Waqas is also into gaming, reading and investigative journalism.