Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Facebook walks into a privacy problem

I've never assumed people have complete privacy on Facebook -- if you post something sufficiently funny, stupid or salacious, people will talk about it and take screen shots of it.


(And if you happen to be a published writer with a moderate level of name recognition, the local media-gossip blog can always decide to run a screengrab of your entire Facebook page on a slow news day.)

But that doesn't mean I'll make my own profile wide open to the public or accept every privacy-policy shift by the company that might expose more of my data.

Today's column follows up on Monday's blog post to address one such shift, Facebook's pending proposal (as outlined in a post on its corporate blog) to share some of its users' data with other Web sites:

In the proposed privacy policy, we've also explained the possibility of working with some partner websites that we pre-approve to offer a more personalized experience at the moment you visit the site. In such instances, we would only introduce this feature with a small, select group of partners and we would also offer new controls.

In other words, if you logged into Facebook in your browser, then opened another window or tab to one of these partner sites, that other page would know you as a Facebook user and, presumably, present you with relevant information from your Facebook social network.

In the example Facebook executives shared with me, a music site would tell you which other Facebook friends liked a particular song. They also compared this to the way third-party applications on Facebook like Where I've Been can access your data to customize your experience.

In the limited scale of a test project, this might not be as evil as some would portray it. But the precedent it would set is unsettling. Plus, I can't imagine that Facebook is going to this trouble to only offer this extra service to 10 or so other sites; when the program expands, the company might not be able to subject these new partners to the same scrutiny.

That's why in the column, I recommend that Facebook make this program an opt-in system -- you wouldn't have your data shared with other sites unless you consented to it. I don't know how many users would take it up on such an offer, but I'll bet that a large chunk of the people who, say, broadcast their Foursquare check-ins to the public via Twitter could be persuaded.

How about you? If such Facebook's new program were opt-in, what would it take for you to sign up -- a discount elsewhere, freebies of one sort of another, cash back? Let me know in the comments. And let me know whether you'll opt out of the current program whenever it launches later this year.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  April 2, 2010; 11:37 AM ET
Categories:  Privacy , Social media  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Warning: People can make up stuff on the Internet
Next: Apple's iPad: First impressions


It's difficult to balance a need for privacy, or at least a choice as to who gets to see my information, with a desire to be in touch and online. I enjoy my Facebook experiences very much, but I also need to choose who sees my information. I rarely allow any of the sites permission to access my information or that of my friends. My friends, however, are not so careful and there have been several viruses and other malware coming across my screen.

I would almost certainly NOT opt in to the system proposed by Facebook.

Posted by: maxinea | April 2, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

FaceBook of Death....
Suicide Video'd Still on Facebook Since May'9....
Email Adresses, Post ALL Ye Want. Add to info page,too. FaceBook Does As Pleases, tering out OverPowering DATA, adding from Vault of Hidden Data, ON YOU.

Samuel Ethington, Facebook Member & Naivee Miserabal, has from Last Spring, Video of Person Intentionally Jumping OFF StoneArch Bridge in Federal Park, SUICIDE . Crowd Screams Don't, In Real FaceBook Posting Video Not first 'cide in News, yet 14 Year Old Posting Home Video of Peers Death & Showing That OF, Nationally?. Chilly.

Now 7 of Conspirators have Had Mumblees' taken away Detained as await Trial. ALL Early Teens, Whom goated, Cheered on Daming Evidence, Smiling & Laughing.Violent Teaching,Preaching & Decieving In One PitFall.

FakeBook, Devils triangle.

HomoSexual Comments of: You Where BEST,PIMP, You Loved IT, Abound on Samuels FB Pages. Samuel Has 750 Friends.Sam Is Eagle Scout,too.
Limited to Christian School & Is Being Wisked here to Qashington,Dc for Interogatory on Sunday,EASTER for States Evidence Against Others Involved & FACEBOOK.
Theme City & BIT 'O Caring help. Growing Up Takes Travel, NOT Spooky, Terrible Pages. RUN.


posted by : Sun of SAM...., 31 March 2010

Posted by: ThomasStewart1 | April 2, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

I do not do facebook applications...period. So, this would not be attractive to me at all...period.

Posted by: RHMathis | April 2, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I'd rather not. Plenty of people see my profile now as it is. Adding more is too much already.

Posted by: docchari | April 3, 2010 12:45 AM | Report abuse

It's hard for me to imagine anything much more annoying than being assaulted with the opinions of a bunch of online "friends" when I'm surfing for music, books or anything else. The more I hear about FB the happier I am with my decision to never, ever sign up. I can't wait for it to fade into oblivion.

Posted by: quacker | April 3, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Seriously debating about deleting my facebook account with the proposed Facebook privacy proposals. If you don't have any control on where data goes after you put it on a site, I don't think it should be put on in the first place. Anything can be changed with careers and futures destroyed.

The only thing I can see from the proposals is they make money off people who may or may not be hurt by their actions.

Posted by: lobopops | April 6, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

On the internet, nobody knows that your name really isn't john65001. If FB is going to start letting other sites know my real name and personal data without my consent, I will delete my FB account.

Posted by: john65001 | April 6, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

A lot of grief with the limelight as usual. If we do this right, you'll never know who did it. You'll just see the result. You'll be able to chart it and then bank it.

Posted by: tossnokia | April 7, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company