Zuckerberg insists Facebook does not sell user data

Founder of social media giant admits that some users are ‘distrustful’ of the platform

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has insisted the social media giant does not sell user data on to third parties such as advertisers.

Mr Zuckerberg, in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal on Friday, said Facebook relies on advertising revenue to provide a free service, and that the feedback it had received from users suggested they would prefer to see targeted advertisements.

“That means we need to understand their interests,” he said. So based on what pages people like, what they click on, and other signals, we create categories and then charge advertisers to show ads to that category.

“On Facebook, you have control over what information we use to show you ads, and you can block any advertiser from reaching you. You can find out why you’re seeing an ad and change your preferences to get ads you’re interested in.”


However, Mr Zuckerberg admitted that some users harbour concerns about the model and are “distrustful” of Facebook.

“Sometimes this means people assume we do things that we don’t do,” he said. “For example, we don’t sell people’s data, even though it’s often reported that we do.

“In fact, selling people’s information to advertisers would be counter to our business interests, because it would reduce the unique value of our service to advertisers.

“We have a strong incentive to protect people’s information from being accessed by anyone else.”

The Facebook chief also addressed the issue of user engagement and whether the company deliberately leaves offensive content on the platform in order to drive clicks.

“I’m often asked if we have an incentive to increase engagement on Facebook because that creates more advertising real estate, even if it’s not in people’s best interests,” he said.

“Clickbait and other junk may drive engagement in the near term, but it would be foolish for us to show this intentionally, because it’s not what people want,” he said.

“Another question is whether we leave harmful or divisive content up because it drives engagement. We don’t. People consistently tell us they don’t want to see this content. Advertisers don’t want their brands anywhere near it.

“The only reason bad content remains is because the people and artificial-intelligence systems we use to review it are not perfect—not because we have an incentive to ignore it. Our systems are still evolving and improving.”

On the issue of whether the company’s advertising model encourages it to use and store more information than it otherwise would, Mr Zuckerberg said there was “no question” that it collects “some information” for ads, but that this is “generally important for security and operating our services”.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter