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Facebook begins user ID encryptions for apps developers after privacy criticism

Facebook said Thursday that applications developers will be able to encrypt data to prevent user information from being shared.

The move comes after The Wall Street Journal found some user IDs -- including names and possibly information about a user's friends list -- could be shared by third-party applications such as Zynga's Farmville game -- with advertisers.

In a blog post, Facebook engineer Mike Vernal said press reports about the privacy problem were "greatly exaggerated" but that it had come up with a technical solution for developers to make that data more secure. The company said the data breach was inadvertent and was a general problem with the HTTP protocol for the Web because certain user information is revealed through browsers to make for more personal experiences on the Internet.

"Our policy is already very clear that UIDs may not be shared with ad networks and data brokers, but we recognize that some developers were inadvertently sharing this information via the HTTP Referrer header," he wrote.

The Palo Alto social networking giant (disclosure: Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald Graham sits on Facebook's board of directors) said over the next few weeks developers will be able to encript parameters of certain applications that had previously shared user information when a browser loaded images or other information on Facebook pages.

For more on how the technical fix works, read the blog.

By Cecilia Kang  | October 21, 2010; 3:17 PM ET
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