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.

Filed Under: facebook, platforms, privacy
Companies: facebook


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  1. identicon
    facebookster, 22 Feb 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"

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