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July 25, 2012 / Admin

Facebook’s Top-Ranked Applications Reportedly Transmit Personal IDs to Advertisers

On October 18, 2010, the Wall Street Journal reported the results of their investigation which found that many of the most popular applications or “apps” on Facebook have been transmitting the names of Facebook users and, in some cases, the names of their friends to dozens of internet advertising and tracking companies. Apps are pieces of software that let Facebook users play games or share information.

The Journal reported that at least one data gathering firm, RapLeaf, Inc., linked Facebook user IDs to its own database, which it sells. The apps are extremely important o Facebook as it transforms Facebook into a hub of activity and extends the usefulness of its network. Seventy-percent of Facebook users reportedly use apps and the apps are a source of revenue for Facebook itself, which sells it own virtual currency to pay for games.

According to the article, the biggest apps allegedly involved are FarmVille, Texas HoldEm Poker and Frontierville. The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook users, including those who set their profile as completely private. It is reportedly unclear how long the breach took place and Facebook claims it is making attempts to “dramatically limit’ the exposure of users’ personal information.

Another article in today’s New York Times  reveals that privacy advocates and technology experts are split on the significance of the breach. Privacy advocate, Peter Eckersley, argues that by transmitting a user’s ID to advertisers, the advertisers could link the ID to information collected about the user anonymously on the Web, thereby giving the advertiser the “magic key to tracking you online”. Others downplay the significance claiming that knowledge of a user’s ID does not enable anyone to access private user information without explicit consent and that credit card companies and magazines have access to far more personal information about customers than any Facebook app.

One thing is certain; this activity will result in litigation. Such breaches likely violate Facebook’s Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy and well as state computer crime laws, federal Electronic Privacy and Stored Communications Acts and other consumer protections statutes.

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