Facebook Faces Privacy Questions

Discussion
Oct 19, 2010

By George Anderson

Revelations in a Wall Street Journal report that
the 10 most popular apps on Facebook have been transmitting the names of members
and possibly those of their friends to "dozens of advertising and internet
tracking companies" raises
questions about the site’s ability to safeguard personal information.

According
to the report, the issue affects millions of Facebook members, even those with
strict privacy settings. The social networking site said it was working to
close any breaches and that its policy was clear "that no
one can access private user information without explicit user consent."

A
post on the Facebook Developers blog took issue with some of the reporting
on the breach. "Press reports have exaggerated the implications of sharing
a UID (user ID). Knowledge of a UID does not enable anyone to access private
user information without explicit user consent. Nevertheless, we are committed
to ensuring that even the inadvertent passing of UIDs is prevented and all
applications are in compliance with our policy."

Discussion Questions: How do you think the Wall Street Journal report on
the Facebook user ID breach will affect those who use the site? Will it affect
those attempting to use Facebook as an e-commerce platform?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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13 Comments on "Facebook Faces Privacy Questions"


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Paula Rosenblum
Guest
10 years 6 months ago
You know, this WSJ series is starting to make me crazy. There are no “revelations” here. It’s sensationalist pap designed to whip up fear and concern for no good reason. People, this is a Rupert Murdoch publication. Facebook does itself a disservice by even responding to this nonsense. I think management would have been better served taking out a full page ad in the same WSJ (which, by the way, carefully notes in most of the series articles that the opinions of the writer are solely his own), calling it what it is–nonsense, but explaining it in a more measured way. I have otherwise educated friends that have been whipped into a frenzy by this baloney. If WSJ REALLY wanted to do the industry a service, it might try to ascertain why FB doesn’t present you with an SSL page when you’re buying something on the site. I bought a Kenneth Cole t-shirt the other day and realized I didn’t see the familiar lock on my URL as I entered my credit card info. Now… Read more »
Max Goldberg
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

It’s a scary report, but it won’t stop people from using Facebook and it won’t stop merchants from using Facebook as an e-commerce platform. Facebook has consistently run afoul of privacy advocates, yet that has not deterred users.

Remember the effort a few months back to get users to boycott Facebook over privacy concerns? Last I heard, Facebook was well on its way to 550 million users.

Paul R. Schottmiller
Guest
Paul R. Schottmiller
10 years 6 months ago

Hmmm let’s see. The press over blowing something…I am stunned (rolls eyes). I have also noticed that many of the users also enjoy a good “rage against the machine” tornado as they blindly re-post status messages that make blatantly false albeit sensational claims about Facebook privacy. One of my favorites was that Facebook is tracking and posting your physical location without your permission for all the world to see.

No doubt there are many more privacy related issues to be worked through in this relatively new world of social networking, and equally not in doubt…with 550m users and growing, there will be plenty of hysteria accompanying these along the way.

David Braunstein
Guest
David Braunstein
10 years 6 months ago

The FB article points to a Wild West mentality the likes of which we haven’t seen since the heady days of the first Internet boom. This is a concern because a site with the public profile and influence of FB will whip legislators into even more of a frenzy. Brands and marketers need to be more cautious when partnering with digital agencies and technology companies that don’t take these privacy issues seriously.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

It appears the Wall Street Journal has issues with Facebook, as did the made for TV waste of time movie a few weeks back. Facebook has no reason to fear the WSJ report. Matter of fact, it might draw more users to the site. Facebook is not going away or hideing in the corner because the WSJ wants to increase or retain readership at their expense. This is the print media struggling to stay vibrant in a time when the electronic media has taken control.

Jesse Rooney
Guest
Jesse Rooney
10 years 6 months ago

Information posted to these social networking sites loses any claim to privacy, regardless of the intention of the user. That’s the purpose of social networking: to publicize information about oneself. Users need to become savvy about what information they provide to the site and take responsibility for their own privacy.

People who may be interested in learning how even supposedly private information on Facebook becomes publicly available should look up “Project: ‘Gaydar'” on Boston.com. This was an MIT project that used publicly available information on Facebook to predict the sexual orientation of users.

Kai Clarke
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Privacy and social networking sites are a huge problem. However, there is only so much that Facebook can do. The real issue is with the users, what they allow, and how this information is handled and filtered by Facebook. After this, users must be cautious of what they put on the internet, no matter what name the access goes under, anything on the Internet can go anywhere….

Bernice Hurst
Guest
10 years 6 months ago
Should we be discussing the site’s ability to safeguard personal information or its willingness to do so? Two separate issues, I’d say. If ever there was a case of buyer beware, I reckon it’s this one, regardless of whether or not the WSJ may be exaggerating and/or sensationalising. Anyone who signs up for any kind of social networking site has absolutely got to be prepared for their privacy to disappear into cyberspace and remain there forevermore. If it hasn’t happened yet, it undoubtedly will at some time. There is only one possible way to prevent it and I’m not even sure that avoiding any kind of presence on a social networking site is enough if you use the internet for anything at all, even just emailing. Seeing ads for a product I recently considered purchasing appearing on newspaper sites that I read is distinctly creepy even with all the knowledge I have gained of such marketing methods through participation in RetailWire. All that said, I don’t really believe that there are many people (other than… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

I pretty much agree with everything Bernice said, since I think she summed up the relevant issues quite nicely. While the WSJ article may (or may not) be sensationalized, I think it’s also true that RW has at least its fair share of social media advocates who are equally lacking in objectivity; the problem of SM–be it FB specifically or blogs and user-generated sites sites in general–is the issue of control; once something is out there, it’s out there forever…naive claims of “privacy” notwithstanding. Those who (in the past) realized their fears of a kindergarten incident shadowing them for a lifetime were overblown, may no longer find that to be true…and they’re probably less likely to play show-and-tell as a result.

Mark Baum
Guest
Mark Baum
10 years 6 months ago

Doesn’t WSJ parent, NewsCorp, own erstwhile Facebook competitor, MySpace?…hmmmm.

Cathy Briant
Guest
Cathy Briant
10 years 6 months ago

I have to agree with Paula…this is a case of mainstream media taking a non-issue and creating a frenzy. Anytime you join any of the apps, there’s a disclosure to the user, and as long as FB continues to work against accidental disclosure, there’s no harm, no foul as far as I’m concerned.

The bigger issue, I think, is around the mainstream media itself. This isn’t the first time someone less than tech-savvy has gone after something they don’t understand, and we’ve also seen our share of similar articles about retail practices. We’re on the inside, so to speak, so we can see the errors and inaccuracies, but the general public does not. This same pool of journalists report on world affairs, politics, the economy, too. Scary.

Phil Rubin
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

While the report by the WSJ might indeed be coming from a biased perspective (i.e., what large media company hasn’t been interested in buying Facebook?), the reporting and other questionable moves by Facebook itself reveal an ultimate vulnerability for both Facebook users and marketers who are over-invested in the property. This adds gravity to reporting such as the WSJ’s whether it’s right or wrong. And yes, for Facebook to address this means they either are not getting the best PR counsel or indeed they do have something to manage in response.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

There is such naivete among the generation that embraces digital media the most and I think most of us (regardless of generation) do not really understand how well our data is protected at this point.

Whether the WSJ story is alarmist or good hard reporting, the risk of data theft and privacy invasion is extremely high and it is just a matter of time before a validated incident grabs real headlines.

Don Peppers delivered a keynote at the Mega Event last week on Trustability and proclaimed that Privacy would be a dead issue within 10 years as consumers have chosen to expose so much of themselves online that issue will one day become moot.

How about 3 years?

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