Blog Post

New Privacy Charges Leveled At Facebook

The latest charge leveled against Facebook, which is facing a torrent of criticism over its privacy practices: The WSJ reports that the social network sent “personally identifiable” data to some advertisers about who was clicking on their ads, contrary to its privacy policy, which states that it doesn’t share user information with advertisers “without your consent.” Facebook says the practice was very limited and it has since stopped. Also unlikely that advertisers accessed the information or even knew they had it.

But no matter. It adds to the growing perception that the site doesn’t care about user’s privacy and adds more fuel to privacy advocates’ contention that the site needs to make changes to its policies. (In fact, Facebook has already said it will make some adjustments soon).

Some consolation for Facebook: The WSJ piece explains that most of Facebook’s competitors, including MySpace (NYSE: NWS), are guilty of similar practices, although they have shared potentially personally identifiable information about the profile page a user is viewing when he clicks on an ad, instead of information about the ad clicker himself.

That could help offset any momentum MySpace has gained from the announcement of its its soon-to-launch un-Facebook like privacy settings, which will give users control over who can access all the information on their profiles.

2 Responses to “New Privacy Charges Leveled At Facebook”

  1. Anonymous

    An interesting perspective on Facebook’s shifting principles, and (oddly enough) the first I’ve read of its kind…

    That said, “privacy advocates’ contention that the site needs to make changes” is not unfounded, AND you might be surprised by the large number of users that now consider themselves “privacy advocates.”

    Need a second opinion? Check out this blog…

  2. You say that the Facebook Privacy Policy says they do not share personally identifiable information with advertisers. But that doesn’t include ad networks which would presumably fall under this heading:

    “Pre-Approved Third-Party Websites and Applications. In order to provide you with useful social experiences off of Facebook, we occasionally need to provide General Information about you to pre-approved third party websites and applications that use Platform at the time you visit them (if you are still logged in to Facebook). Similarly, when one of your friends visits a pre-approved website or application, it will receive General Information about you so you and your friend can be connected on that website as well (if you also have an account with that website). In these cases we require these websites and applications to go through an approval process, and to enter into separate agreements designed to protect your privacy. For example, these agreements include provisions relating to the access and deletion of your General Information, along with your ability to opt-out of the experience being offered. You can also remove any pre-approved website or application you have visited here, or block all pre-approved websites and applications from getting your General Information when you visit them here. In addition, if you log out of Facebook before visiting a pre-approved application or website, it will not be able to access your information. You can see a complete list of pre-approved websites on our About Platform page.”

    By the way, the link is broken to the About Platform page to confirm the ad networks are on the pre-approved website list.

    The bill proposed by Rep. Rick Boucher sanctions the above Facebook policy.

    We are doing a quick survey to share with Rep. Boucher what you think should and shouldn’t be shared here: