I’ve been having some people asking me when the last time Facebook lost control of users’ information and it was stolen or inappropriately obtained and resold by app developers. As reported in the WSJ it was October of 2010 – not very long ago! I thought it worth mentioning again, especially since according to this letter (PDF) to US Representatives Ed Markey & Joe Barton from Facebook, they are still planning on making phone numbers and addresses available to app developers…
To sum up the last Facebook privacy breach, it turns out that literally millions of apps on Facebook were transmitting varying amounts of personally identifying info about you and the people on your friends list to their own ad servers. Which could then scrape off any public information from your and your friends’ profiles and re-sell to other ad firms.
The most notable offender was RedLeaf Inc’s LOLapps and the Family Tree app, but in the top 10 was the unscrupulous company Zynga’s Farmville, Texas HoldEm Poker and FrontierVille as well. Which is not too surprising given that Zynga has never made any bones about the fact that their apps are actually engineering to pump money out of users using all kinds of dirty psychological tricks (the CEO even brags about it at a conference).
No, I really can’t see making phone numbers and addresses available to apps, – no matter what kind of permissions control warnings you might put on the EULA – to be a good idea at all. Then again, as I’ve railed about quite a bit already, Facebook is all about the monetization of their social networking service at the expense of the users. I keep hoping Diaspora will be ready sooner rather than later so we can still keep connected, but get away from those who’d brutally exploit the social aspect of the internet!