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 Facebook Battles Another Privacy Firestorm

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PostSubject: Facebook Battles Another Privacy Firestorm   Tue Oct 19, 2010 4:41 am

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Monday's news that Facebook finds itself in another privacy firestorm is the latest evidence for many users and industry watchers that Facebook isn't working hard enough to protect its users or their personal information.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that some of Facebook's most popular applications, such as FarmVille, Texas HoldEm Poker and FrontierVille, have been sending users' personal information to dozens of advertising and Internet monitoring companies.

The report, based on the Journal's own investigation, found that the issue affects tens of millions of users, even those who have set their privacy settings to the strictest levels.

The newspaper's investigation found that 10 of Facebook's most popular apps are leaking the unique 'Facebook ID' numbers of users to the third-party companies. The ID numbers can be traced back to individual Facebook users.

The Journal also noted that the highly popular Farmville app, which has some 59 million users, also transmits information about the friends of affected users as well.

"This builds on an ongoing theme that Facebook can't be trusted, which could do the service serious damage over time," said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. "We still haven't identified a service that people are likely to switch to, but every time [something like] this happens, the likelihood that one will emerge increases."

Facebook maintains that it takes user privacy very seriously.

"We are dedicated to protecting private user data while letting users enjoy rich experiences with their friends," wrote Mike Vernal, a Facebook engineer, in a blog post Monday.

"Recently, it has come to our attention that several applications built on Facebook Platform were passing the User ID (UID), an identifier that we use within our APIs, in a manner that violated [our] policy. In most cases, developers did not intend to pass this information, but did so because of the technical details of how browsers work," Vernal said.

Vernal added that the media has "exaggerated" the implications of third parties' gaining access to Facebook user IDs. "We are talking with our key partners and the broader Web community about possible solutions," he said, adding that Facebook will provide more information this week.
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