Not to pile it on Facebook – I know it has been a topic of a lot of my posts, but when news of privacy issues breaks, it just isn’t something I can ignore. Especially knowing how many people use Facebook and how few actually understand how it really works.
I’m not opposed to Facebook, in fact, I find it quite useful to keep up with friends and family who live in different time zones! But I do believe that I, and all users, should be in complete control of the information we decide to post on the site. I am of the belief that whatever you decide to post online, you should inherently understand that you have a lesser “expectation of privacy” (to borrow a Law & Order term!) than you would, say having a face to face conversation with someone. I think we all accept that in exchange for the connectivity these types of programs offer us.
But, when things are happening behind the scenes, without our knowledge or opt-in consent that shares or potentially compromises our information, that is where I think the line must be drawn.
So what’s this week’s issue? Apparently, many of the uber popular apps in Facebook have been capturing personally identifiable information or users and sometimes of their friends and storing it and/or providing it to third party companies. As usual, the Wall Street Journal has a fantastic article on the topic today:
“Apps” are pieces of software that let Facebook’s 500 million users play games or share common interests with one another. The Journal found that all of the 10 most popular apps on Facebook were transmitting users’ IDs to outside companies.
The apps, ranked by research company Inside Network Inc. (based on monthly users), include Zynga Game Network Inc.’s FarmVille, with 59 million users, and Texas HoldEm Poker and FrontierVille. Three of the top 10 apps, including FarmVille, also have been transmitting personal information about a user’s friends to outside companies.
To Facebook’s credit, they are taking this revelation very seriously and seem to be making moves to curtail the practice and disable apps that violate Facebook’s privacy terms. In the meantime, now, as always, be thoughtful about what you post online, even if you have your privacy settings set at the highest level. It is ultimately up to you to manage what is even available to a site like Facebook.