Facebook Responds to Privacy Breach: User Data Sold to Broker

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Our recent post mentioned about Facebook’s privacy breach in which it was stated that Facebbok Apps like Farmville and Texas HoldEm Poker were allegedly transmitting user information to third party advertisers and Internet Tracking firms. Facebook has made an announcement on its developer’s Blog regarding this issue. Facebook Inc. said that a data broker has been paying the application developers for identifying user information. The application developers are those programs which let the users play online games, quizzes and much more. These applications were sending Facebook user’s ID numbers to the third party for advertising and marketing purposes. The ID is used to look up a user’s name, e-mail id and other contact information which the user provides in the social networking sites. This information is used by companies to build profiles of Internet users by tracking their online activity.

Facebook has not yet identified the data broker which bought these user IDs but it has reached and agreement with RapLeaf Inc. which is described as “the data broker who came forward to work with us on this situation”. Under the agreement RapLeaf agreed to delete al the user IDs which it had been possessing. RapLeaf also agreed not to conduct any activities on the Facebook Platform.

Facebook wrote in its post that it has “zero tolerance” value for such data brokers because they undermine the value that the users come to expect from Facebook. Facebook will be adding a mechanism in Jan 1 2011 which enable the application developers to share a unique identifier with outside parties in anonymous fashion.

Regarding the apps which were selling users’ information, Facebook said that it had suspended a few apps which is fewer than a dozen but mostly the small ones. Facebook didn’t mention the apps which were involved in this process of selling user IDs.

The same privacy breach was discovered with MySpace too. On enquiry, MySpace said that it was taking appropriate action against the app developers who violate the privacy policies

Source: The Wall Street Journal