Facebook selling your information?

Last week, I said that I thought that there should be an open source alternative to Facebook (and there is at least one) . A few days later I came across this video overview of the money and politics behind Facebook, though I wasn’t sure of its veracity. Today, I saw this note from Lorne Novolker on Facebook:

Apparently Facebook has started SELLING user information (surprise, surprise!) to third parties. They call it the “Facebook Development Platform.”

To restrict use of your information, do the following:
Click “Privacy” on top right.
Under the “Facebook Platform” section click”Edit Settings”.
Scroll down to the bottom and UNCHECK ALL of the items under facebook platform.

Most creepy is the inclusion of photographs!
(Do your friends a favor and repost this as your own note.)

Unless a platform is truly open source, it seems that when we participate, someone else always profits.

13 Responses to “Facebook selling your information?”

  1. Chris

    Um…it’s time to get some misconceptions about Facebook out of the way:

    1. They’re a commercial company. OF COURSE they do something with all the info they get from users who are willing to type it in. To what degree do they do this is the question, but legally speaking, that’s what the EULA is for. In more common terms, don’t put online what you wouldn’t in real life.

    2. The “Facebook Development Platform” is simply an API that anyone can use to plug in to their web service. For example, people have used it to make visual representations of their friends. It doesn’t give away any more information that what is already freely available to all, such as your name and list of friends.

    3. Don’t count out the ignorant Facebook masses. Every time Facebook changes the site, these allegations come up time and time again. A lot of the time, it’s just unbased fear and doubt spread around, just like the old chain emails about Microsoft charging for MSN Messenger unless the email is forwarded to everyone on your contact list.

    Seriously, though, would a open source model be better? Somebody will have to foot the bill for hosting even if development is by the OSS community. I suppose it can be hosted by universities, but why would they raise bandwidth usage exponentially for something very few students have a legitimate use for? If social networking services are sponsored by the university, it also places somewhat of a duty, or onus, for them to monitor the network. Remember universities expelling students for underage drinking from photos they posted online? Not doing so, however, would render them liable for condoning such actions.

    Furthermore, implementing a OSS model does nothing to prevent data farming from advertisers. In fact, this model may be more open to having information revealed because the database structures would be freely available to all, or at least more accessible than Facebook’s obligations to keep data protected.

    All this is simply fear, uncertainty, and doubt placed into the minds of naive students unfamiliar with business and technology. On one hand, they have no hesitations with handing over tremendous amounts of content (sometimes incriminating) to a third party. On the other hand, they’re demanding a level of respect that is both undeserved and makes no business sense. They can rectify their grievances by simply switching to different networks or abstaining from participating in such web sites, but their desire to be “cool” overrides rational thinking.

  2. Harold

    Good points Chris, but at least with an open source platform you could pull your contet out and use it elsewhere.

  3. Colin Busby

    If you could pull your own content, why couldn’t anyone else? I personally don’t see how an open source platform would make things any better. Open source means anyone can view the source code, which means anyone (with the proper knowledge) can figure out how to get the information out. I don’t really see this as the issue.

    As much as I don’t like the fact that Facebook is selling my personal information, it all comes down to what Chris said:

    “…don’t put online what you wouldn’t in real life.”

    If you don’t want someone to know everything about you, don’t tell them.

  4. Harold

    Colin; I agree, the bottom line is that you shouldn’t put online what you don’t want the world to see.

    I think we agree – “anyone (with the proper knowledge) can figure out how to get the information out.” That’s my point. You can transfer your content in an open source ecosystem. Which is why I recommended that schools and universities offer OS as an option for social networking.

  5. Bill Fitzgerald

    The reason an open source platform is better is because, if you have strong concerns, you can get the source code and host it yourself. If you host it yourself, you have full control over the data, any data mining activities, etc. Open APIs such as Facebook’s Dev API provide another mechanism for tracking use patterns and user behavior, and this information can subsequently be sold.

    Privacy is only as good as the EULA, the privacy policy, and, at the end of the day, the amount of trust you have that a corporation or organization will tell you the truth.



  6. jay

    this is the same stupid reaction that came out of the myspace legal bullshit, regarding the content posted and the licenses and sub licenses etc etc.
    The key thing is that for people who don’t know about digital content, you have to have clauses like that to ensure the legal copying of content from servers to servers, and even cache on a user’s browser. If someone viewing the content can save it, then sub licenses have to be granted as well. the video link leaves out half of each paragraph that it is quoting… for example :

    “You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.”

  7. Matt

    I posted this as a note on Facebook and they have now deleted it from my profile!! Surely that’s censorship and/or illegal?!

  8. Louise

    I heard that facebook can sell your posted photos to advertisment companies. Is this true?

  9. Harold

    Louise, check the FB license agreement and get legal advice if you’re concerned. As I said before, you shouldn’t put online what you don’t want the world to see, or use.

  10. April

    Has no one really thought about the fact that you can save your mobile & house numver on their system. EVEN you card details its ridiculous click account on settings and manage credit cards you can add all your cards the numbers ect along with your address… if you entered them u might aswell give them your pin so they can copy your card.. why would a social network really NEED your card details. you can hardly forget your card details sinc their ON YOUR CARD.

    only one that finds that a bit dodgy?

  11. some guy

    actually if you get rid of the checkmarks the makers of facebook will still own ur personal information

  12. Jason Larson

    People please stop these companies by working to create a law against data extortion.

    This is how it works:

    Because you have given facebook your information not only will you be enabling facebook to sell your information but you will also have to pay to have it secured.

    1. Intelius collects your personal information from various sources, including their biggest client which is Facebook and public records.

    2. Intelius sells your personal information to anyone who wants it on its network of background check sites, which includes Zabasearch, USSearch, PeopleLookUp, LookUpAnyone.com, and PublicRecords.com

    3. If you pay for a subscription to TrueRep, Intelius will then block your information from appearing on its network of sites.


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