Facebook collects all content that is typed into its website, even if it is not posted, a tech consultant has claimed.
In December 2013, it was reported that Facebook plants code in browsers that returns metadata every time somebody types out a status update or comment but deletes it before posting.
At the time, Facebook maintained that it only received information indicating whether somebody had deleted an update or comment before posting it, and not exactly what the text said.
However, Príomh Ó hÚigínn, a tech consultant based in Ireland, has claimed this is not the case after inspecting Facebook's network traffic through a developer tool and screencasting software.
‘I realised that any text I put into the status update box was sent to Facebook's servers, even if I did not click the post button,’ he wrote on his blog yesterday.
Referring to the GIF he created below, he found that a HTTP post request was sent to Facebook each time he wrote out a status, containing the exact text he entered.
‘This is outright Orwellian, and inconvenient,’ he said. ‘Since I am now aware of this, I am more cautious about what I enter into the text area.
‘However I can't help but notice the adverse effect of my new found awareness ? am I experiencing the censorship of my own thoughts because of a faceless entity such as Facebook that doesn't care about you? I very much believe that is the case.’
After being approached by Information Age for comment, Facebook has again denied the allegation.
A spokesperson said: 'We do not store the content you type but decide not to post/share. We do detect the presence of text to suggest people you might like to tag in your post, [but] we do not store this unposted content.'
There is nothing in Facebook’s Data Policy that directly explains what data it collects and what data it doesn't.
However, the general ambiguity under the heading 'What kinds of information do we collect?' makes it unclear, such as: ‘We collect the content and other information you provide when you…create or share. This can include information in or about the content you provide.’
One thing is certain: most Facebook users do not expect the company to collect the text they decided against sharing.
The company faced a backlash in 2009 when it removed part of a clause that promised to expire the license it has to a user’s ‘name, likeness and image’, which it uses for external advertising, if they remove content from the site.