Facebook Shares More About You
Facebook has over 500 million active users which access their site. Every day, people access over 20 million Facebook applications on their site. As most people are aware, Facebook has had a major issue in the past with their security, and a few weeks ago, Facebook decided to add more of your personal information that they share to applications, including your phone number and address. Practically later that day, they quickly repealed that decision, and Douglas Purdy, director of developer relations, posted the following on the Facebook Developer Blog, “Over the weekend, we got some useful feedback that we could make people more clearly aware of when they are granting access to this data. We agree, and we are making changes to help ensure you only share this information when you intend to do so. We’ll be working to launch these updates as soon as possible, and will be temporarily disabling this feature until those changes are ready. We look forward to re-enabling this improved feature in the next few weeks.”
When one thinks about Facebook applications, most of the time you think of the games that many of the millions of Facebook members play, such as the extremely popular FarmVille and the new hit CityVille from Zynga. But there are a lot of other applications as well that people use, most of which are fake or completely useless. One that was circulating around that was a spam application was the “My First Facebook Status Update Was…”, and it generated a completely fake status and date and posted it onto your news feed for everyone to see. And even though it was fake, and people eventually realized that, more and more people continued to use it.
When it gets down to it, the main thing to realize is that when you decide to use a Facebook application, you are forced to share all of your information with the application and/or the company who made the application, just for the sake of using it. In theory, the reasoning behind this is so that the application developer can get information on the people who use it so that they can better improve the application for the specific audience that is using it, or so that they can advertise to the correct audience in order to garner a larger and more diverse audience. But what about those applications that are fake? Facebook’s process for approving applications is seemingly non-existent, so what is stopping someone from creating an application for the sole purpose of stealing peoples’ information?
Normally, applications require you to share with them your profile picture, user ID, gender, friends and other typical items that an application can use to do it’s normal functions. In the case of sharing your friend list with them, it’s so that you can send requests to them to join the application as well, or so that you can send something to them which the application does, so something like that is understandable. However, the reasoning behind why you would need to share your phone number or address is still a cloudy area. It begs the question of if Facebook wants to allow applications to be able to be in contact with you at all times, such as sending you a text message update to your cell phone whenever something happens in the application that you should know about, or sending you promotional information to your mail if the application has to do with a company which sells stuff. Other than this, though, most applications should have no reason to be granted access to these things.
The biggest problem with Facebook applications is that you don’t get a choice on what you want to share with an application before you get to use it. If you want to be able to use an application, you must first agree that you are willing to share all of the information that you put on Facebook to use it. You have no choice on selecting only certain things to share with it, which makes it an easy target for people who are too gullible to think about whether or not the application is safe or not. There have been talks from the Facebook camp of creating a way that you can test out an application to see if you like it before you are forced to share all of your information with it, and this seems like a sound idea, but for most applications to work properly, they already need to have access to a lot of your information so that it can be customized towards the person that is using it.
Obviously, there are people out there who would say one of two things, both of which can’t be denied. For those who are worried that their personal information is not secure on the Internet, the main way to be able to make sure nothing happens to it is to not put it there to begin with. Even with all of the security that Facebook supposedly has, there are a large handful of ways that people can be able to access your information, or hack into Facebook and steal the information directly from there. For many people, however, Facebook is their main way of keeping up with old friends, so keeping their information for friends only is the main point of why they use it. The second point, however, is that one could just not use applications. Applications are virtually useless to the experience of Facebook anyway, so not using them can only help your cause, especially when you’re worried about privacy and security. So what do you think? Are you still going to use Facebook even though they want to share all of your information with everyone out there?
Fun Fact: Did you know that even when a person is not your friend, they can still access much of your information? When a person sends a friend request, it more or less opens up your profile for them until you decide to approve or deny that request. If you leave the request as pending, they will be able to read and comment on all of your status updates, and presumably see all of the information that you may have strictly accessible only for friends.