Monday, October 18, 2010

Facebook - Breaking Your Privacy Rules.

The Wall Street Journal has written a multi-part series, an excellent expose called "What They Know", covering the complex world behind the web and how it impacts your personal privacy.

Today they brought to light a practice of Facebook applications.  The unique "Facebook ID" number is being shared between Facebook, Facebook applications, and vendors that the Facebook applications might do business with.  

The cause for concern is the Facebook ID number can be used to trace back to a person's name and their friends' names even if you have your security settings at the highest and strictest levels.  In other words, you have a false sense of privacy.

A Facebook user ID is a public part of your profile.  ANYONE can use the ID to look up your name, even if you have all of your Facebook information set to private.

Do you love to play FarmVille or Texas HoldEm Poker?  Or, do your friends?  If so, your privacy is at risk based on the games you play and the games your friends play.

Roughly 25 apps on Facebook were found to be violating your privacy by collecting your information and passing it along.  

The WSJ reports that RapLeaf linked your Facebook user IDs to information in other databases to create a more thorough profile about you.  When confronted by the WSJ, RapLeaf asserted that the transmission of Facebook ID was unintentional.  

I am finding it challenging that these companies with innovative leaders and technology geniuses are doing all this by accident?  What is your opinion?

There is a point of view out there that your privacy has already been invaded so you should not be upset.

{POST REVISION NOTE}  By the way, I got a note from Rex Hammock, who is mentioned in the Atlantic Wire as "the CEO of a media marketing firm".  In that article, He says your grocery store programs sell more information about you than Facebook apps do.  He wrote and clarified his position.  He commented that "there are many ways people constantly give out information about themselves that third-parties sell -- and that marketers use."  See his comments below.

Experts may be divided but there are a set of experts that feel you should be allowed to control your security and trust that your information is only being shared with your permission and not through a technology loophole.

How to Protect Yourself:
1.  Avoid playing Facebook games
2.  Check out the list of top 10 apps that were sending out information and discontinue use
3.  Educate your friends on Facebook - their actions could leak your information

Top 10 Apps Sending Your Facebook ID:
Texas HoldEm
Cafe World
Mafia Wars
Quiz Planet
Treasure Isle


"Facebook in Privacy Breach - Top-Ranked Applications Transmit Personal IDs, a Journal Investigation Finds", Wall Street Journal, Emily Steel and Geoffrey A. Fowler, October 18, 2010.

"How Harmful Is Facebook's Privacy Breach?", The Atlantic Wire, John Hudson, October 18, 2010.

1 comment:

  1. re: "In one camp, people think you already had your privacy invaded so you should not be upset. If you belong in that camp, you are aligned Rex Hammock"

    No, you're not. The Atlantic Wire picked up and used out of context a tweet I posted. You've added additional misinformation by claiming I'm in some camp. I was simply pointing out, in response to another tweet, that there are many ways people constantly give out information about themselves that third-parties sell -- and that marketers use. If someone doesn't like that, I would never say, "get over it." I'm all for anyone being upset about whatever bothers them. I'm all for people completely exiting the grid, if that's what they want to do.