Recently I found an illuminating infographic in the New Yorker magazine that shows how social media sites gather information about their users. As explained in the New Yorker:
“In short, they see people as data, breaking their users down into categories that fit neatly into a machine-readable stream of information. This data is gathered not only from what users share on the social networks themselves but also through programs that plug into these networks by way of an application programming interface, better known as an A.P.I. For instance, think of any time you signed in to a Web site or an application with your Facebook or Twitter login, used a Facebook or Twitter app that was made by a third-party company like Zynga, or clicked a Like button at the top of an article. In different ways, those applications all talk to social networks via their A.P.I.s.”
“This information flows both ways: the social networks receive data from applications and, in turn, they can provide developers and advertisers with data about their users. …Much of the information that they have about users remains internal, and is not made available to developers via their A.P.I. Taken together, they are a way of conceiving of how social networks see you. Facebook may provide items like your name, statuses, photographs, favorite television shows, friend requests, religious views, privacy settings, events, and check-ins. (What it can make available to these applications depends on your privacy settings.) For instance, when you play Candy Crush Saga on Facebook—currently the most popular game on the social network—the developer, King, has access to what Facebook describes as “your basic information,” which includes your name, profile picture, gender, user I.D., friends, and “any other information you made public.” In the Twitter A.P.I., as Paul Ford has explained, you are an amalgam of your tweets, username, favorites, retweets, location, language spoken, and so on.”
Here is the infographic developed by the New Yorker.
For my business pages, I get access to much of this information and it helps me understand how users are addressing my site.
For my personal pages, I rarely post to these sites, as I value my personal privacy and do not want the professional pictures I take to be all over the net.
ADDENDUM June 29, 2014
Here is another way the Facebook manipulates your data.