Privacy

Facebook Struggles to Control All the Data It Gathers, Report Says

The openness of the social network's system makes it difficult to explain what happens to user data, according to Vice.

Facebook gathers a huge amount of user data, and some privacy engineers reportedly expressed concern that its systems lack adequate control over it.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Facebook's ad systems struggle to cope with the amount of user data they gather, and the social network's privacy engineers warned that it could run into trouble with regulators in the US, Europe, India and other countries, Vice reported Tuesday.

The issue lies in the "open borders" of the system that Facebook parent company Meta has built, the engineers said in an apparent leaked report written last year.

"Imagine you hold a bottle of ink in your hand. This bottle of ink is a mixture of all kinds of user data … You pour that ink into a lake of water (our open data systems; our open culture) … and it flows … everywhere," they wrote. "How do you put that ink back in the bottle? How do you organize it again, such that it only flows to the allowed places in the lake?"

As a result, it's difficult to assure external groups that data isn't being used for purposes beyond what regulations like EU's General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR, will allow.

In a statement to CNET, Meta said that the document doesn't describe its "extensive processes and controls" to comply with regulations and that the data lake analogy lacks context.

"New privacy regulations across the globe introduce different requirements and this document reflects the technical solutions we're building to scale the current measures we have in place to manage data and meet our obligations," a company spokesperson said via email.