Are Facebook Applications A Privacy Disaster In The Making?

from the promiscuous-sharing dept

I've become steadily less enthralled with Facebook applications as I've become more familiar with them. In theory, a platform strategy is a great idea -- indeed, few tech companies have been really successful without building platforms that other companies can leverage to dramatically increase the value of the whole ecosystem. But not every platform strategy will necessarily be a success. And often, the crucial thing that separates a successful platform strategy from an unsuccessful one is the ability to design a good interface between the core technology and the add-on functionality. If the interface is too limited, other companies won't be able to do anything with the platform. Conversely, if the interface is too expansive, it can allow the entire platform to descend into a chaotic mess, as shoddy add-on products can undermine the reputation of the entire ecosystem. It appears that Facebook's application platform is in danger of falling into the latter trap.

Chris Soghoian has a great post arguing that Facebook's permissive policies regarding application access to user data poses a serious threat to user privacy that could seriously damage Facebook's reputation. Soghoian says that applications are given access not just to all of a given user's information (much of which is unnecessary for the application to perform its functions) but also to a lot of information about a user's friends, many of whom will not have consented to have their information shared with random third-party applications. There's is a page buried deep in the Facebook preferences that allows users to disable your friends' applications from accessing this information about you, but the information is shared by default, and the page isn't going to win any awards for clarity. The situation poses a serious problem for Facebook. On the one hand, it has an obligation to preserve their users' privacy. On the other hand, it desperately wants to enhance the functionality of the Facebook platform and prove that it's more than a toy for college kids. An overly-restrictive privacy policy could make it impossible for anyone to develop the killer app Facebook craves. I'm not sure exactly where to draw the line, but I think Soghoian is right that the current system has too few safeguards against the misues of private information by third-party applications.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Nobody, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 6:39am

    Simple Advice

    If you don't want everyone to know something, don't put it on-line.

    I don't care what kind of safe-guards are in place, a shared site open to the public is never going to be "safe".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 6:44am

    If the apps have access to personal information that is not needed, then why would it make it impossible for others to create apps that work with a privacy policy?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Overcast, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 7:37am

    I find it 'best practice' to just simply avoid Facebook and Especially MYSpace.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Hellsvilla, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 7:39am

    OF course...

    Of course facebook apps are a privacy disaster in the making. Facebook itself is a privacy disaster....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    sonofdot, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 8:00am

    That's because it is a toy

    The reason they're having so much difficulty proving that Facebook isn't just a toy for college students is because that's exactly what it is. You can put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    neural, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 9:06am

    Amazed

    Facebook is not amazing...the fact that the media is hyping it as the 'second coming' is amazing...is that Zuckerberg a nephew of some media big-wig?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Buzz, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 9:29am

    RIP Apps

    The sad thing about applications is that, as mentioned above, they were a really good idea in theory. They offer much by way of potential, and there are several applications that I like! However, the temptation was too great for many developers, and they decided to have their applications automatically invite everyone on a friend list repeatedly without the carrier's consent. I receive three "Heroes Abilities" invites from the same person every day, but I don't think he even knows it is happening.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Ron, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 9:48am

    Buzz is right

    There is a huge problem with controlling what an app can or can't do, and it's true that an app can spam your friends without you knowing about it. I had a problem with the Movie Quiz application, it asked to invite my friends, I clicked No, and it did so anyway. When I wrote to the developer, they responded that it was "a known bug."

    Let me see, you have an app that goes to someone's contact list and, against their will, inserts itself into those contacts' environments? I am pretty sure outside of Facebook that is called a "worm."

    And Facebook can't do anything to control it. I think this will be the thing that kills the platform.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Sub Par Genius, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 10:26am

    I think Face Book and MySpace should merge. They would then be Face Space. Or My Book.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Buzz, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 5:09pm

    No way!

    Oh please no, SPG. I realize to the casual viewer, Facebook and MySpace seem very much alike (and you were just making a jest), but a merger would be the worst thing ever. There are MANY reasons I use Facebook over MySpace. MySpace offers nothing I like. Facebook is still far more professional than MySpace.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    anon, Jan 26th, 2008 @ 2:10pm

    Online

    "If you don't want everyone to know something, don't put it on-line."

    People put their email online. Maybe you do too. And none of these people want everyone to know the contents of their email.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Chatterbox, Jan 27th, 2008 @ 6:30am

    Privacy. What Privacy?

    I agree with Anon as far as zipping the lip or here, stifling the urge to tell-all in posts on MySpace or Facebook. And, our youth will become victims time and time again---kicks and giggles by way of seemingly childish games will imprint upon their life journey. Bad news all the way around from a developmental, social and safety perspective.

    But, privacy went out the window long before these relative newcomers-- electronic medical records, drivers information, courtesy cards and so on--- privacy problems and spam, including that mystery meat sold in grocery stores, has been with us for some time.

    So, protect yourself the best you can...oh, and being a good, honest joe helps.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    illegalprelude, Jan 27th, 2008 @ 2:08pm

    The reason I used to like Facebook over myspace was that it was clean and simple. Now, its this huge cluster fuck of everytime a friend sends something, you have to add it your profile and then send that request to twenty other people and it asks you "do you wanna post this, do you wanna do this and that" so its just random shit happening lol

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Chirag Mehta, Feb 5th, 2008 @ 6:03pm

    Monetizing social networks and preserving privacy

    Monetizing efforts do ruffle some feathers on the way since it is intertwined with other factors such as privacy, data portability, and experience design. The Facebook's experience design keeps applications' users inside of Facebook but at the same time provide the necessary, or sometimes unnecessary, access to user's data to the application providers. This has set off some debates around privacy concerns. Access to user's data and open architecture is a key to increased adoption that can potentially lead to monetization, but Facebook needs to be careful here not to piss of the users. Compare this with Google few years back where Google made a conscious decision to keep the search results rank clean (do no evil) and that strategy paid off when Google started monetizing via AdSense. I have a detailed post on my blog http://cloudcomputing.blogspot.com/2008/02/monetizing-social-networks-and.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    bebodevelopers, Feb 22nd, 2008 @ 1:14am

    business application

    Bebo Developers is the name of a dynamic quality assertive and low cost team of developers who expertise in developing Face book, Open Social applications that include Bebo, LinedIn and iGoogle widgets.
    Possessing some of the best available talent present we are proud to have developed a
    Wide range of deployed applications that rank amongst the highest used by everyday Face book and Open Social applications. The increasing popularity of Face book
    Applications has made every businessman want to get his hands on a Face book application that increases his market and product and this is where Bebo Develop.
    Visit now: http://bebodevelopers.com"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    facebookster, Feb 22nd, 2008 @ 1:15am

    application developers

    Facebookster - We can provide a full range of facebook application strategy, design, development and marketing for your business. Facebookster
    Visit now: http://www.facebookster.com"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    myidealpakistan, Feb 22nd, 2008 @ 1:16am

    application software

    Welcome to My Ideal Pakistan! The best website where you can find the best quality hot and orignal images and photos of Pakistan.Opportunity for adventure is as high as its mighty mountain ranges, with watersports, mountaineering and trekking all popular and rewarding activities.
    The website also contains stories and news from all over Pakistan. In addition, we have a quote section where you can find the quotations of thousands of authors belonging to different categories.Feel free to add photos, stories and quotes to promote your home land. You can also share your collection with your friends and family.
    visit now: http://www.myidealpakistan.com"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    facebookster, Mar 6th, 2008 @ 11:03pm

    business services

    Facebookster - We can provide a full range of facebook application strategy, design, development and marketing for your business. Facebookster
    Visit now: http://www.facebookster.com"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Facebook Developer UK, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 1:39am

    Facebook Developer UK

    There is huge market competition between facebook application developers and facebook application. Developers have to work harder to get into market and promote their applications according to peoples view.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    BB, Nov 14th, 2009 @ 6:11am

    Re:

    Well said, Overcast.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Facebook Applications, Mar 30th, 2010 @ 7:57am

    This would be nice if it actually worked. I had my mother block me from application updates on her facebook and I still see her horoscope crap.

    It would be better to just allow users to block ALL applications from showing up in their status updates for everyone. This way I don't have to ask each and every friend who uses farmville to manually block me from applications.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Facebook Developers, May 12th, 2010 @ 2:55am

    Facebook Developers

    Face book has chance to improve our site pro poly but why they can't improve . i am don't understand.and face book application going to peak of earn a lot of revenue

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Viewcaster, Oct 18th, 2010 @ 4:55pm

    Private?

    Well, users of all social media really need to understand that they should never assume that any data they post (whether on a social networking site, blog or even email)is completely private. That said, it does seem like FB's continuing privacy slips might be too much to be complete coincidence.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Online Beat Mixer, Nov 15th, 2010 @ 6:55am

    Wonderful information. I just posted this on twitter...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Facebook App Development, Jul 29th, 2011 @ 11:00am

    Facebook App Developers

    Facebook apps are definitely the future of social media communication on the web. Just tweeted this...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Pakistani Actor, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 1:26am

    Lux Style Pakistan

    We are going to start deploying this technique on our blog! thanks for the great insight.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Mobile Apps, May 16th, 2013 @ 12:56am

    Worth reading this because of the social media fan.
    Mobile Apps Development Dubai

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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