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More Meta trouble: Facebook and Instagram collect browsing data from minors, say researchers

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Meta’s name change had come at a time when the company was looking to shed the massive critical baggage that the Facebook name had been carrying through the past few months. But the problems refuse to go away.

More Meta trouble: Facebook and Instagram collect browsing data from minors, say researchers
Despite claims to the contrary, Facebook and Instagram continue to collect browsing data from their underage users, revealed a recent research paper. Meta, the parent company of both platforms, had earlier in the year announced that advertisers would only be able to launch targeted advertisements to minors based on age, gender and location.
However, researchers from activist groups Global Action Plan, Reset Australia, and Fairplay found that both platforms still make use of tracking software known as conversion application programming interfaces (APIs). These APIs gather and collate the web browsing data of minors, keeping track of what websites they visit, and their actions.
“Facebook can collect data from other browser tabs and pages that children open, and harvest information like which buttons they click on, which terms they search or products they purchase or put in their basket (‘conversions’). There is no reason to store this sort of conversion data, except to fuel the ad delivery system,” said the report.
The researchers were able to view the data collected by the two platforms from their minor users by using these APIs by creating three fake accounts for teenagers. A group of 44 advocacy groups have now written to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Founder of Meta, to remove all data gathering practices on minor users.
“It’s wrong to say that because we show data in our transparency tools it’s automatically used for ads. We don’t use data from our advertisers’ and partners’ websites and apps to personalise ads to people under 18. The reason this information shows up in our transparency tools is because teens visit sites or apps that use our business tools. We want to provide transparency into the data we receive, even if it’s not used for ads personalisation,” a Meta spokesperson responded.
“Replacing ‘targeting selected by advertisers’ with ‘optimisation selected by a machine learning delivery system’ does not represent a demonstrable improvement for children, despite Facebook’s claims in July. Facebook is still using the vast amount of data it collects about young people in order to determine which children are most likely to be vulnerable to a given ad,” the research report had stated.
Meta, previously known as Facebook, is caught up in a storm of controversy through the past couple of months. The company had faced increased scrutiny after a whistleblower leaked a trove of internal documents, which highlighted that the company knew about the slough of negative effects its platforms had on its teenage user base, among other disturbing allegations.
 
 
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