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 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.
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