Facebook Appears To Store Unpublished Video Data (Updated)

Updated, 4/2/2018, 11:30am PT: Facebook issued a statement saying that the unpublished video data that the company has been storing for a decade, but somehow never noticed as its hard drives were filling up with this video data, was just a bug: 

We investigated a report that some people were seeing their old draft videos when they accessed their information from our Download Your Information tool. We discovered a bug that prevented draft videos from being deleted. We are deleting them and apologize for the inconvenience. We appreciate New York Magazine for bringing the issue to our attention.

The company had previously claimed on two different occasions that the datr cookie that was tracking both Facebook users and non-users across the web was also a bug. Plus, the company said on both occasions it would fix this bug, years before being put on trial in Belgium for continuing to use the datr cookie and then defending it as a security feature.

Original article, 3/29/2018, 12:35pm PT:

Last week, some Android users discovered that Facebook was storing their call and text history without them realizing. Facebook defended itself by claiming that the app requires permission before it obtains that data. However, it wasn’t clear if that’s always been the case or whether asking for permission was more of a recent policy change since Google implemented stricter permission policies in the latest version of Android.

Other users now seem to have discovered, after downloading their Facebook account data, that videos they’ve never posted were also stored on the company's servers. It seems that the issue is that Facebook stores every version of what you try to post on the platform, even before you hit the Post button, and this goes for more than just text.

Facebook Stores Data You’ve Never Posted

Before the Facebook Live era, users could record videos with their webcams and then post the final versions on each other’s walls. You could preview every video before posting it, and if you didn’t like the recording, you could “discard” it and then do another “take.”

However, what you may have not realized is that Facebook wasn’t actually deleting those videos. Instead, it was storing all of the unpublished versions of your videos, too.

According to users reporting to New York Magazine, some of the videos are from 2008, which means Facebook had the infrastructure to store all of this extra and seemingly irrelevant video data a decade ago.

Facebook has often been accused of capturing users’ conversations through a phone’s microphone, but no one has been able to prove those accusations so far. However, one of the biggest criticisms of this theory has been that Facebook wouldn’t be able to store so much data on users, even though voice data is much more compact than video data that you thought you deleted.

Facebook’s data policy says that the company can “collect the content and other information you provide when you use our Services, including when you sign up for an account, create or share, and message or communicate with others.”

Any one of those words could potentially be interpreted differently than you or we may interpret them. For instance, “communicate with others” may not necessary refer to chatting with other people via the Messenger or by sharing thoughts on Facebook website.

One of the main reasons why Facebook is getting into scandal after scandal lately is precisely because the company is acting like you’re willingly agreeing to all of its actions against your data, but the truth is most people probably don’t quite understand what Facebook’s terms even mean, from a legal standpoint, if they even get to read them in their entirety.

This Isn't The First Time Facebook Has Stored Unpublished Information

Facebook storing data besides what you explicitly publish on the platform isn’t all that new. Back in 2013, a paper written by two Facebook employees who were interested in studying “self-censorship” on the platform revealed that Facebook was storing every word you typed on the website, before you actually published anything.

Many Facebook users may think that if they don’t post their entire private lives on Facebook, then Facebook can't get too much data on them and companies such as Cambridge Analytica can't later exploit it for their own gain. However, as we’ve seen before and with these new reports, Facebook tracks not just what you explicitly publish on the platform, but any type of interaction you may have with its website, its Like and Share buttons on third-party websites, and its mobile apps.

Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal we’ve already seen Tesla and other companies delete their Facebook accounts because they no longer trust the company’s conduct or its apologies.

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.
  • manleysteele
    And the hits just keep on coming. The question now is, "Is there anything shady that Facebook hasn't done?"
  • sosofm
    And the peoples are the same .. stupids. Why to expose your life,for some "likes" ?
  • Sam Hain
    20840907 said:
    And the peoples are the same .. stupids. Why to expose your life,for some "likes" ?

    For those types who live and die for likes... Taking a line from one of the Offspring's songs, "...I'm just a sucker with no self-esteem".