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WSJ's Facebook story draws divided responses

Facebook on Monday acknowledged that applications on its social networking site passed along information about users that violated its privacy policy. The company also tried to minimize the significance of an apparent data breach reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Throughout the day Monday, some blogs, news outlets and users of Twitter agreed while others cried foul on the Palo Alto company, showing a sharply divided reaction on how bad the problem was.

At issue was the WSJ’s findings that users’ profile information – such as their names and in some cases their friends' names – were passed along to tracking companies:

Many of the most popular applications, or "apps," on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information -- in effect, providing access to people's names and, in some cases, their friends' names -- to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

Tech Crunch editor Michael Arrington called it a “snoozer.” Ester Dyson, a tech journalist tweeted that the WSJ story showed the need to “police third parties.”

Silicon Alley Insider editor Henry Blodget tweeted Sunday evening: “BUSTED: WSJ catches Facebook, Zynga giving your private info to dozens of advertisers”

In a blog post, Blodget noted that the data breach appeared to focus on Zynga, which runs Farmville and other games apps on Facebook. He reiterated that tens of millions of apps users could be affected.

“Until now, the WSJ series has mostly been hysterical screaming about things most people know and don't care about. At first glance, however, these latest findings sound more serious,” he wrote in a blog post.

On Twitter, Blodget was quickly criticized by Jeff Jarvis, who tweeted, “WSJ continues its war against the Internet.”

In a back and forth on Twitter, Jarvis questioned whether the espisode was a major privacy flaw, considering many other other companies including News Corp., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, sells information about its subscribers to third-party advertisers.

Jarvis is the author of “What Would Google Do?” and an associate professor at City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Our own Rob Pegoraro, author of Faster Forward, noted that the ability to access user information has occurred since Facebook’s inception.

“The "identifying information" noted in the article -- your Facebook username or profile number -- is already public data in most cases. Unless you disable the "public search" feature that Facebook enables for all over-18 users, anybody can see your name and photo by typing in the right address.”

By Cecilia Kang  | October 18, 2010; 4:59 PM ET
Categories:  Facebook  
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A little rant on internet privacy:

Posted by: anthony_franco | October 18, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

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