Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
December 22, 2007 8:11 PM

That Facebook Vampire Bite May Be Sucking Your Personal Data Dry As Well

There's been some hearty conversations online about Facebook, third-party applications, where your personal data is winding up, and whether or not individuals understand what they're getting themselves into when they agree to the terms of service of the online social network or add a particular widget.

It all came to a head earlier this month when a Canadian adult site was sued by Facebook for using bots. Here's the news item courtesy of IT Business and the article, Marketing Experts Laud Facebook Law Suit Against Canadian Porn Company:

"Facebook is suing 17 people and a Canadian Internet porn company for alleged attempts to mine the social network site for its users' personal details. In a lawsuit filed earlier this month before the U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif, Facebook claimed that servers controlled by Istra Holdings of Toronto used automated scripts to make more than 200,000 requests for personal information stored in Facebook."

Full disclosure: I was interviewed and quoted in this IT Business article.

While the focus of the case is on how the automation process goes against the terms and service of using Facebook, the real concern - and the stuff Marketers need to think about - is how clearly we're explaining to Consumers what data we need, why and how we are going to use it. The point is, there are many evil people who will take advantage of open APIs and online social networks to further their evil bidding, but if Marketers don't want to be lumped into that group, I think there's an opportunity here to over-deliver and drive standards. Set the bar high, and make it difficult for any of these mischievous Marketers to have an impact because Consumers know (and, hopefully, trust) application based on higher standards that we're setting. And, let's make them higher than the ones Facebook might be considering.

That's what I'm thinking.

Right now, it's still the Wild West. Every application you add enables any third-party full access to your data and social graph. That's a lot of personal information just floating around out there. Marketers are seeing stricter regulations when it comes to the Do Not Call Registry for telemarketing and don't think that the Do Not Email Registry is far behind. In both instances, all we're really talking about is an email address or a phone number... not your entire personal profile and who it connects to.

That sucking sound might be much more than a Vampire bite... it could well be the sound of your personal information being slurped up by who knows who.

I've stopped adding third-party applications in Facebook - no matter how relevant they sound. I've simply lost trust in what's being done with my personal information. Sadly, I think I'm one of the few who feels this way based on the growing popularity of these third-party applications and widgets.

By Mitch Joel


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