Facebook in privacy storm over popular apps

Darren Allan

October 18, 2010

Another big privacy row has erupted on the net, and surprise surprise, it revolves around Facebook (let’s face it, when these things blow up, it’s either them or Google).

An investigation by the Wall Street Journal has uncovered the fact that many of the leading apps on the social networking site have been passing on user data to advertising companies.

These reportedly include user ID numbers and friend names, and the issue affects some tens of millions of users of the apps, regardless of whether they had their privacy settings turned on to the most strict levels or not. The apps in question include the likes of FarmVille and Texas Hold’em Poker.

Facebook has admitted that “several” apps were indeed passing on user ID (UID) details in a manner which violated the site’s privacy policy, but said that the app developers didn’t intend to transmit these details. It happened due to the “technical details of how browsers work”, the site wrote on a developer blog post.

This continued: “Press reports have exaggerated the implications of sharing a UID. Knowledge of a UID does not enable anyone to access private user information without explicit user consent. Nevertheless, we are committed to ensuring that even the inadvertent passing of UIDs is prevented and all applications are in compliance with our policy.”

Facebook says it is currently talking with partners and the web community at large about possible solutions to this issue.

This latest fracas comes after last week’s comments by a BT boss who questioned the inherent dangers of social networks and their privacy policies.


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