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Facebook's apps were caught doing something naughty, but the site seems in no hurry to punish its app partners.  (Source: Kim White Bloomberg)
Site shared users names and friends, including those with the strictest privacy settings

The Wall Street Journal's investigative staff have unleashed serious allegations against the world's largest network Facebook and its partners.  According to the report, the site's partners have been intentionally and blatantly violating its privacy policies.  Makers of some of the site's most popular apps have been sharing users names with advertisers, something strictly prohibited under the site's terms of service.  

App makers reportedly have even shared the info of users who have their privacy set to the strictest settings.  Users with less strict settings may also have had the list of their friends shared, which in turn could affect users with stricter settings, second-hand.

Reportedly over 10 million users were effected by the violation of terms of service.

The breach of privacy is part of an increasingly lucrative scheme known as data mining.  Today data mining allows advertisers to better target their audience, by maintaining vast databases of information detailing various individual's behavior and tastes.  Data mining companies call upon the services of heavily trafficked sites like Facebook and Google to deliver vast amounts of user data.  While many users don't realize it, their name is instantly associated with a lengthy record of their internet activity and purchases.

Facebook is claiming the scheme, which brought its partners lucrative advertising money, was "inadvertent" -- an innocent accident.

States a spokesperson to 
The Wall Street Journal, "A Facebook user ID may be inadvertently shared by a user's Internet browser or by an application.  [Knowledge of an ID] does not permit access to anyone's private information on Facebook.  Our technical systems have always been complemented by strong policy enforcement, and we will continue to rely on both to keep people in control of their information."

According to 
The Wall Street Journal, 10 of the site's most popular apps, subscribed to by many its over 500 million active users, were involved in the scheme.  Three of the apps involved were -- Zynga Game Network Inc.'s FarmVille, with 59 million users, and Texas HoldEm Poker and FrontierVille.  Farmville was among three apps thats also sold information on users' friends to advertisers, collected in violation with the site's terms of service.

Facebook has announced no plans to discipline these partners, despite the fact that some of them were clearly caught violating its terms of service. 

The debacle comes just a month after 
West Wing screenwriter Aaron Sorkin portrayed the site's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a less than flattering manner in the film The Social Network.  It also comes as the site struggles with its latest addition, user "groups".  

As pranks, users have been adding their friends to groups associated with taboos such as pedophilia and terrorism, raising the possibility of legal trouble for these friends.  The site's founder was added to NAMBLA -- a group supporting pedophilia.  Users have no way of blocking themselves from being added to groups, raising legal risks for them.  Once added, though, users can opt to leave a group at any time.  Facebook has defended the new feature, refusing to make changes.

Facebook did recently roll out a privacy settings control panel for apps, giving users more control over what information is shared.  One problem, though is that users can still have their identities shared by friends, if their friends adopt more lax privacy settings.  There currently is no way to limit what information your friends share with app makers and advertisers, including your name and potentially other info.

For their part, some app makers claim that they only mistakenly sold private user data.  They said they were merely selling advertisers referring links, a common practice, and had no idea those referring links contained personal info, such as the user's name.  They, in effect, blame Facebook for the technical error.

Others, like FamilyBuilder, maker of the Family Tree application, admitted to harvesting user data intentionally, but say that they kept user info confidential.  Family Tree reported passed on info to data mining firm RapLeaf, that in turn deposit custom-tailored cookies on users' computers to further track their activities.  Info from these cookies was sold to a number of other firms, including Google subsidiary Invite Media.



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Duh
By Spivonious on 10/18/2010 10:31:14 AM , Rating: 3
When you start an app it asks for permission into your profile. It never says that it won't sell your info to advertisers.




RE: Duh
By kattanna on 10/18/2010 10:40:22 AM , Rating: 2
yep. and how do people think those companies make the money they do to stay in business.

and i have a hard time believing facebook itself is not behind this "loophole"


RE: Duh
By amanojaku on 10/18/2010 10:55:11 AM , Rating: 3
Facebook is behind this insofar as it is a home for people willing to give their privacy away. You don't have to join Facebook, and if you join you don't have to use features that reveal your info. I don't like Facebook, so I don't have an account, but I don't see anything crooked in this policy.


RE: Duh
By Motoman on 10/18/2010 11:46:33 AM , Rating: 2
People are stupid. FB, like Apple, Bose, and Monster Cable, takes advantage of that stupidity.

People can't be bothered to actually care about, much less actually read, the Ts & Cs that come with the crap they use. They just barge right into it, and let it take full advantage of them.

There will always be someone willing to abuse an idiot. Sadly, we have no shortage of those someones...or those idiots.


RE: Duh
By Lazarus Dark on 10/18/2010 9:37:17 PM , Rating: 2
There are an increasing number of less internet-savvy FB users. Grandmothers and Aunts get signed up by their 11 year old grandkids and they don't know the first thing about privacy settings.

The fault is FB's in my opinion. Due to thier size, they have a responsibility to protect all the non-techies who are convinced to join because everyone they know tells them to. FB should have all privacy settings on MAX by default and have very clear click-throughs to turn each one off one at a time.

A reckoning is coming for FB. With the size they have achieved and the potential for abuse and misuse, the US government is going to have to step in to protect the millions of citizens duped into giving up all thier personal data.

I use to laugh at the idiocy of most of the masses, until I finally realized that they are being manipulated and duped into things like voting for idiots and believing crap on Fox news. And I realized that eventually thier stupidity affects me and my life, so I've decided I'm all for the government protecting the masses from thier own stupidity.


RE: Duh
By EricMartello on 10/25/2010 2:07:22 AM , Rating: 2
No, it's really not the governments job or duty to regulate personal responsibility. Being old doesn't somehow excuse you from being responsible...and if you are too old to know what's going on around you it probably doesn't matter who has access to your personal info, does it? It's time that idiots had to fend for themselves and let natural selection do its thing.


RE: Duh
By marvdmartian on 10/18/2010 12:00:20 PM , Rating: 1
Big part of the reason why I have not installed any applications to my FB account, and also why I use a different browser for FB (Internet Explorer) than I do for my day to day surfing (Firefox).

But seriously, if this violates their terms, it should be stopped, and whoever allowed it should have their peepee whacked by the bailiff.


wat?
By Barfo on 10/18/2010 11:20:08 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Reportedly over 10 million users were effected by the violation of terms of service.

"effected"? I stopped reading right there.




RE: wat?
By Motoman on 10/18/2010 12:48:40 PM , Rating: 2
I'm going to guess you're getting downrated by the same people who think apostrophes are used to indicate plurality...


RE: wat?
By jdsal on 10/18/2010 11:58:37 PM , Rating: 2
Where is he using an apostrophe. Looks likes like quotes to me, but of course I was not an English major.


RE: wat?
By jdsal on 10/18/2010 11:59:15 PM , Rating: 2
Obviously, LOL


RE: wat?
By mostyle on 10/25/2010 5:00:29 AM , Rating: 2
If typos due to idiocy or obliviousness will prevent one from reading a document so be it as it is their choice.

What I truly fail to see is the sense of achievement or gain from pointing it out in what could be taken as a demeaning tone. If the typo changes the intended meaning.. Sure, suggest an edit or what have you.. Seriously though.. Whatever happened to the old saying "If you don't have anything positive to say shut up."

Oh.. Wait. The Internet happened.

/me resumes silence.


Affect. Not effect.
By astralsolace on 10/18/2010 10:30:40 AM , Rating: 1
Seriously. Need a proofreader? Hire one.




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