When Facebook launched its Home on Android on Thursday, Om raised some questions about how Facebook’s new products would be collecting user data, and whether users should have concerns about their privacy. Late on Friday afternoon, Facebook responded to now widespread questions about privacy and Home, saying basically that the company won’t be collecting data any differently than it already does with its Android app.
“Home doesn’t change anything related to your privacy settings on Facebook, and your privacy controls work the same with Home as they do everywhere else on Facebook,” the company wrote in the blog post.
But Om questioned on Thursday whether that’s really the case, since the HTC First phone with Facebook Home deeply integrated will have far more capabilities than a simple Android app, with the accelerometer in the phone having the ability to track how fast you’re moving, or the phone’s sensors detecting the location of your home based on the times of day you’re not checking in:
“The new Home app/UX/quasi-OS is deeply integrated into the Android environment. It takes an effort to shut it down, because Home’s whole premise is to be always on and be the dashboard to your social world. It wants to be the start button for apps that are on your Android device, which in turn will give Facebook a deep insight on what is popular. And of course, it can build an app that mimics the functionality of that popular, fast-growing mobile app. I have seen it done before, both on other platforms and on Facebook.
But there is a bigger worry. The phone’s GPS can send constant information back to the Facebook servers, telling it your whereabouts at any time.”
However, Facebook reminded users that adopting Home is totally optional, as I noted in my story about the potential impact of the release, and that users who try it can de-activate it any time. Facebook explained that Home will track the apps you have in your Home launcher on Android, and will track when you open those apps, although not the actions you take inside them. For instance, it will see that you open a maps app, but not the directions you enter. And not surprisingly, the company reminded users that they can read about how Facebook uses data at its Data Policies center.