Monday, May 5, 2008

What Are Facebook Friends For? Maybe data mining

Further evidence that Facebook does not 'get' privacy is brought to you this month by the BBC, which recently built a Facebook application that could mine personal data from anyone who played it, and their friends. (In a nice touch of irony, the application was called The Miner, as in 'data miner' get it?)

A video clip from the BBC's Click programme can be seen here (you can find a text report here). It turns out that, by default, Facebook gives application developers wide-ranging access to anyone who installs the game, and their friends. Notice the theme here: "and their friends." In other words, you might be exercising due diligence over what you do with your Facebook account, but just one careless friend could undermine your privacy.



And you'll love the Facebook response: Using an application to abuse access would be a violation of the Facebook terms and conditions. Oh well then, no problem. That should take care of that. And here I was worried that someone would steal my credit card, but no worries, using someone else's credit card is a violation of Visa's terms and conditions. Those terms and conditions are probably what's limiting online credit card fraud losses to just a few billion dollars a year. And that's considerably less than what some analysts think Facebook is worth.

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