WSJ: Farmville, Facebook apps share names with advertisers, Web trackers

WSJ: Farmville, Facebook apps share names with advertisers, Web trackers

Summary: Some of Facebook's popular apps have been sharing your name - and, in some cases the names of your friends - to advertising and Internet tracking companies, according to an investigative report published by the Wall Street Journal late Sunday.Among them is Zynga's Farmville, with 59 million users, Frontierville and Texas HoldEm Poker.

SHARE:

Some of Facebook's popular apps have been sharing your name - and, in some cases the names of your friends - to advertising and Internet tracking companies, according to an investigative report published by the Wall Street Journal late Sunday.

Among them is Zynga's Farmville, with 59 million users, Frontierville and Texas HoldEm Poker. Farmville reportedly shared the names of users, as well as user's friends. The report said that tens of millions of Facebook app users have been affected, even among those whose profiles were set to the strictest settings.

The WSJ reported that some apps were unavailable after the newspaper contacted Facebook about the findings of its own investigation. It's important to note that it was third-party apps, not Facebook itself, that were sharing the information and that app developers are prohibited from sharing user information with outside advertising or data companies, even if the user agrees.

The Journal's investigation shows how Facebook has not been able to police that rule. The company told the WSJ that it would address the problem with technology. A company spokesperson said:

This is an even more complicated technical challenge than a similar issue we successfully addressed last spring on Facebook.com but one that we are committed to addressing.

Facebook says that Journal's findings are overblown. In a blog post, Facebook said:

Recently, it has come to our attention that several applications built on Facebook Platform were passing the User ID (UID), an identifier that we use within our APIs, in a manner that violated this policy. In most cases, developers did not intend to pass this information, but did so because of the technical details of how browsers work.

Press reports have exaggerated the implications of sharing a UID. Knowledge of a UID does not enable anyone to access private user information without explicit user consent. Nevertheless, we are committed to ensuring that even the inadvertent passing of UIDs is prevented and all applications are in compliance with our policy.

It's an unfortunate setback for Facebook. The company has taken a PR beating in the past for missteps around privacy settings and user control but has recently gone to great lengths to address privacy and user control when it announces something new, just as it did when it launched a search partnership with Bing last week.

Call it a lesson learned for a growing "platform" company - and hopefully one that's resolved quickly. On several occasions, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that the power of Facebook is its platform, the foundation for bringing a social element into other areas of the Internet. That's true - but Facebook needs to make sure that that platform is a safe place for the users. That means policing the platform to make sure user data isn't compromised in any way that's going to betray the company's trust with the users.

Facebook users who are adamant about privacy can only be forgiving so many times.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Browser

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

18 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • All the more reason

    I do not play games on Facebook.
    bobiroc
    • RE: WSJ: Farmville, Facebook apps share names with advertisers, Web trackers

      I don't play games on Facebook either - I am close to removing posts from family members cause I don't really give a @@@T who needs what to buy a lamb or a plant or whatever else they do on these games - VERY ANNOYING
      Lipson
  • An investigative report? Is that what reading is called?

    This is considered news? This is well known. If you start Farmville, you get the standard warning that you get for any app on Facebook.

    So the WSJ finally read the agreements, and calls it investigative journalism? More like investigate your head up your butt journalism.

    Anyone who has played Farmville (or others) should have the common sense to know that when the warning comes up, you lose privacy. Period.
    This is the same thing happens with the horoscope apps, and quiz apps, the tracker apps, anything on FB that isn't default.
    msalomon
  • RE: WSJ: Farmville, Facebook apps share names with advertisers, Web trackers

    Your friends farmville activities should not transgress on your privacy settings. In other words, an app should not assume that all your friends would like to share their data with a third party. It is good to nip such things in the bud before it becomes an assumption rather than an exception.
    rgor@...
  • RE: WSJ: Farmville, Facebook apps share names with advertisers, Web trackers

    My solution was to kill my facebook account. I refuse to play the whore with facebook.
    Scatcatpdx
    • RE: WSJ: Farmville, Facebook apps share names with advertisers, Web trackers

      @Richard B Problem is, you can't really KILL your facebook account. It's still there, with all your data and all your friends. Try it sometime. Log back on to facebook and other than the welcome back message, it will look like nothing ever changed. I know because I did the same thing but still continued to get spam. I logged back on and deleted all of my profile information. Not that I'm fooling myself as they still have all of that information readily available.
      This one falls under the 'should have known better' category. Only thing that really makes me made is I can't take it back. No way to scrub that data once they get it and freely distribute it.
      20kwfence
      • RE: WSJ: Farmville, Facebook apps share names with advertisers, Web trackers

        @20kwfence : Right. And once your information has been passed on, even removing all your data from FB would do not good because thousands of thousands of spam lists have already picked up your address and whatever other information they have on you. That info will be in the wind for years to come.
        twaynesdomain-22354355019875063839220739305988
  • "journalism"

    WSJ was just capitalizing on the buzz surrounding the release of the movie about Zuckerborg.

    If it bleeds, it leads. Kick 'em when their up, kick 'em when they're down. Same ol same ol.
    pgit
  • RE: WSJ: Farmville, Facebook apps share names with advertisers, Web trackers

    Facebook games remind me of a casino. The games are tedious and constantly proding you to spend money.
    daliere@...
  • RE: WSJ: Farmville, Facebook apps share names with advertisers, Web trackers

    Facebook apps share your info with advertisers and web trackers...

    Well, du-uh!
    bb_apptix
    • RE: WSJ: Farmville, Facebook apps share names with advertisers, Web trackers

      @bb_apptix Oh really? You wouldn't be somewhat surprised if they did this even though you have your security settings set to not allow this?
      20kwfence
      • RE: WSJ: Farmville, Facebook apps share names with advertisers, Web trackers

        @20kwfence : If there's a way to do it long enough to profit, then companies will do it, regardless of who they are or what the honchos think is even actually happening. Anytime you give some entity your address and information you can consider it stolen regardless of who does the stealing. FB is likely an enticing target for identity theft, I'm sure. AUPs and TOS's etc. are only words; there is no way to know whether they are being adhered to and/or not being ignored by their owners or hackers alike.
        That is exactly why the advice to use throw-away accounts is so voluminous these days. If you think anything covert is going on, just abandon the address or delete the account and get another one. Never use your own paid-for accounts for e-mail signons, period.
        twaynesdomain-22354355019875063839220739305988
  • Avoid the games and apps altogether when possible

    Everytime someone starts sending me iCrapPhone spam every hour or so, the first piece of advice I give them to to look at what apps they are approving, my solution is to avoid all the games and cutesy apps like the plague, if it wants access to my account and also my friends, I always stop and ask myself why, and do I really want to use it badly enough to give up control of my account. Needless to say, you can keep your farmville, potfarm, mafiawars and horrorscope tracking crap thank you very much. Misbehaving apps that are being abused to generate spam should be shut down immediately, without first waiting until after a few gazillion flags are made against innicent senders whose accounts are being attacked. Facebook could be far more proactive in responding to these issues as they are occuring.
    jaybyrd
  • How to Permanently Delete a Facebook Account

    Only a fool uses their real identity on Facebook.

    www.wikihow.com/Permanently-Delete-a-Facebook-Account
    schmandel@...
  • RE: WSJ: Farmville, Facebook apps share names with advertisers, Web trackers

    This might explain something I recently ran into. Actually, I'm sure it does. My son has cancer and is using FB to keep in touch with his friends, coworkers and family as he undergoes rounds of chemo and radiation and so far one operation and more coming.
    First, they insisted I update Adobe Flash. OK, I did so, although no other sites were having a problem with it. Turned out I got the buggy 10.1 version, unbeknownst to me. It locked things up so I couldn't even get to Adobe's downloads, almost like it was malware.
    Finally Adobe came up with a non-buggy rev and I downloaded and installed that; now FB was happy with that.

    Next, FB claimed I didn't accept cookies, which wasn't true. I accepted session, first and second party cookies, but NO third party cookies. No other website had EVER complained about that; their cookies were just dropped to the floor.
    But at FB it was a show-stopper. I accept them or I can't get in. Did a little searching and got copies of the cookies I was refusing that FB insisted I accept. EVERY ONE OF THEM was a third-party cookie, and the owners were already in my Hosts file with a few added to my WinPatrol file to keep them out. Then this last weekend while I was at my sister's (she used FB), I checked her cookies: She had TWELVE FB cookies without expiration dates and a bunch of other WITH expiration dates, a fiew session cookies and I quit looking there.

    Now, after this post, I guess I understand why I can't get onto FaceBook! FaceBook themselves never responded to any of my queries, either; black hole mode.
    My son has found a way to cc me on his entries, along with the replies to his post on FB, so I'm now able to get his posts, which was my only intent of all this anyway.
    Regardless of who you deal with online, it's best to use a throw-away e-mail address regardless of how "trusted" everything may say they are. There are too many free email account services around to not use them. Hotmail, MSN, Gmail, sneakemail, Yahoo, and many others are about as good as you can get. I use Verizon and Yahoo and my own website to create email accounts so I have more available than I'll ever use.
    twaynesdomain-22354355019875063839220739305988
  • RE: WSJ: Farmville, Facebook apps share names with advertisers, Web trackers

    I don't care about the folks who play Farmville. If they want to give away the store as far as their own info is concerned let them go for it. However if their activities compromise my privacy settings then FB & the 3rd party app makers have gone too far.
    Canticus
  • RE: WSJ: Farmville, Facebook apps share names with advertisers, Web trackers

    Why can't I contact FaceBook? FB locked me out because " suspicious activity". I logged on 10 miles away at a relatives house, on their computer. I wrote them and they never responded. A friend showed me what to do and I regained access 10 days later.
    vmarsh4246
  • good idea about facebook

    A good post. Do you know tattoo? It is quite amazing. We supply kinds of tattoo kits, tattoo machines, tattoo needles, tattoo ink and so on. Please buy<a href="http://www.dealingway.com/Wholesale-damascus-tattoo-machines_c279">damascus steel tattoo machine</a>at wholesale price from us.5zVa2
    gavin.chan