TRUSTe responds to Facebook privacy problems...

TRUSTe responds to Facebook privacy problems...

Summary: TRUSTe certifies and monitors privacy policies...a rapidly moving target and a complicated once apps are introduced into the picture.

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Facebook privacy policies are certified and monitored by TRUSTe, a private company that makes a big business out of issuing privacy seals for thousands of web sites.

In response to Facebook's recent privacy breach, in which apps developers shared private data about Facebook users, Fran Maier, President of TRUSTe, issued the following statements:

Today, the results of two notable privacy inquiries were released – one, a Wall Street Journal investigation into the personal information sharing practices of Facebook apps and advertisers and the other, TRUSTe’s own nationwide survey of parents and teens on their privacy preferences and habits on social networks. The WSJ write-up alleges that many of the most popular apps on Facebook have been “providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names—to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies”. You can read Facebook’s response here.

While TRUSTe certifies the privacy practices of Facebook.com, we do not certify the privacy practices of third party applications on the site like those referenced in the WSJ’s article. We appreciate, however, that ever-growing importance of these applications in peoples’ lives and recognize that with growing popularity comes the need for greater privacy due diligence. Just last month we launched the first-ever mobile app privacy certification program, covering apps on all major mobile operating systems. Our mobile app certification program ensures that certified apps provide consumers with notice and choice regarding the collection and use of their personal information, including sensitive location data. We’re committed now, more than ever, to delivering these privacy protections based around transparency, accountability and choice to the web-based application market. In the future we look forward to bringing greater privacy oversight to the social networking app space.

There are a lot questions and debate surrounding the implications of the WSJ’s findings. The WSJ takes issue with Facebook users’ information being passed on to advertisers, but what do users think about this practice on a high level? We found no clear consensus, with an almost even split for both teens and parents: 50 percent of parents and 46 percent of teens think advertisers should be able to show them ads based on their social network profile information or activity.

That’s not to say parents and teens aren’t concerned – they are. We found that 56 percent of teens and 66 percent of parents do not think social network applications used by their friends should be able to access their information. These stats underscore the importance of choice. Consumers want to make the call about when and with whom their personal information is shared – they don’t want their friends or third parties making those decisions for them.

Permissions, data transfer and governance of data must be transparent and it seems in this particular case identified by the WSJ that better transparency was needed on all sides since even some of the players involved in passing this data were apparently unaware of their actions. And that’s exactly where third-party privacy certification can help. Third-party privacy certification of social networking apps would also allow for the creation of uniform app standards – let us not forget that these same apps operate across other environments (like MySpace) and are not limited to the Facebook domain. Policing and monitoring apps is a difficult job and we’re ready to help."

Foremski's Take: TRUSTe certifies web site privacy policies but, it turns out this does not apply to apps or mobile apps referencing the web site.

Facebook is one of the company's largest clients and one of its most challenging clients.

I recently interviewed Chris Babel, CEO of TRUSTe. [TRUSTe tries to manage the massive problem of Internet user privacy | ZDNet]

He said that TRUSTe worked very closely with Facebook to develop its privacy policies and pushed for very simple ways for users to opt-in to privacy controls. But it was a touch and go process and there were initially privacy policies that TRUSTe would not have certified.

But the use of the TRUSTe seal on Facebook is confusing. Does it certify adequate privacy provisions for user interactions or not? Or only if apps aren't used?

TRUSTe seals are all over the Facebook privacy page:

Facebook (13) | Privacy Policy

Connecting with an Application or Website. When you connect with an application or website it will have access to General Information about you. The term General Information includes your and your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections, and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting. We may also make information about the location of your computer or access device and your age available to applications and websites in order to help them implement appropriate security measures and control the distribution of age-appropriate content. If the application or website wants to access any other data, it will have to ask for your permission.

It certainly appears from the page that TRUSTe approves of everything in Facebook's privacy policy.

I spoke with Chris Babel, CEO of TRUSTe for some clarification and he says that Facebook has complied with TRUSTe's policies in that it has quickly responded to the data leak and it suspended some of the applications. "That's exactly what we want to see."

He said that the privacy issue becomes very complicated with many layers, which is why TRUSTe recently launched its mobile apps certification program. And that an apps certification will soon follow.

This same issue affects Apple, another large TRUSTe client. Apple's web site is certified by TRUSTe but not the behavior of the iPhone apps unless an app provider seeks its own TRUSTe certification.


Topics: Browser, Collaboration, Security, Software Development, Social Enterprise

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15 comments
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  • RE: TRUSTe responds to Facebook privacy problems...

    And what is Truste's business model, and who certifies/pays them? The solution is in distributing the network so nobody has this level of control over such a vast landscape of private information - and the abuse cannot happen. Look at "mistpark". Free, open, distributed social networking.
    macgirvin
    • RE: TRUSTe responds to Facebook privacy problems...

      @macgirvin
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  • RE: TRUSTe responds to Facebook privacy problems...

    I don't think "privacy" and "Facebook" were ever intended to be in the same sentence.

    I just blogged about FACEBOOK:

    http://adrianzupp.blogspot.com/2010/10/facebook.html
    AdrianZupp
  • TRUSTe responds to Facebook privacy problems...

    Ok, so it seems that facebook has made a new privacy setting. But really, it made everything less private. I don't want ANYONE except my friends to see my profile picture, pages I'm a fan of, high school, gender, my friends, or any information besides being able to add me as a friend.

    http://renadexwarning.com
    Nathanielse
  • RE: TRUSTe responds to Facebook privacy problems...

    I responded to Facebook as well, I deleted my account!!

    Tired of being a watchdog with my privacy settings when Facebook CEO has already stated he thinks the right to privacy is a thing of the past.
    KRyan1
  • RE: TRUSTe responds to Facebook privacy problems...

    I think that anyone who has an issue with how their personal information is handled by FB should try ThreadThat.com. We don't collect private information, so it cannot be leaked. We provide a safe and secure means of sharing messages and files using end-to-end encryption in a threaded messaging format similar to FB. Your shared content cannot be accessed without your authorization. Period.
    MrPrivacy
  • Too many privacy issues for far too long

    Facebook has never really been interested in social networking only. There have been too many instances where Facebook could have, but haven't, used privacy settings to control user information and not misuse it by allowing third party access to it.
    Having developed a facebook app I know how easy it is to obtain all the user data. it is also easy to sell it and this i believe is very wrong on the part of Facebook. We must embrace something different and give startups a chance. There are websites such as Mycube and Diaspora which actually care about our privacy and give us control of our digital lives. We should move on to them as soon as they are open.
    vishal_bhardhwaj
  • Facebook is untrustworthy!

    It should be obvious by now that Facebook has an ominous agenda which affects all non-commercial users of their service. Information provided by users on their profile accounts has never been safe with Facebook. And now it has become quite clear that Facebook has always intended to use such information provided by users to further their own goals to become the dominate social networking service on the planet. Although the movie "Social Network" is supposedly a fictional parallel about Facebook's founder and operation (read: scoundrel), it is surprisingly close to what Facebook actually is and its operation. The rumors and actual accounts of the founder's scandalous theft of the Facebook concept from fellow students while at Harvard University have long been known. Yet sadly it has notoriously been unreported and even hidden by media and influential businesses and individuals who had selfish interests regarding the matter; i.e., financial gain. This is not uncommon in the world of big business and finance, as well as with governments including the United States. Nevertheless, it will continue until people stand up and reject by every means possible any and all who participate in such activities. At this point it is apparent that anyone who trusts Facebook is either exceptionally naive or lacks the intelligence to understand and comprehend it all. Facebook should be abandoned by all users without any hesitation. A word to the wise!
    Dr.DonPietro
  • RE: TRUSTe responds to Facebook privacy problems...

    TRUSTe just gave everyone a Mea Culpa....<br><br>And made darn sure that it was written in a manner that tries to absolve their organization from any legal responsibility.<br><br>Typical immoral, but not illegal response for any company today...<br><br>My facebook page contains the bare minimum. I don't feel that the privilege ( not right, BTW ) to obtain any more information has been EARNED by Facebook and many other social networking sites. They don't secure their PI enough to satisfy me.<br>Using a site to find a job or use for specific goals ( like this one ) deserve a release of more information; they are tools to get a certain job done.<br><br>The Bard of Avon says it best:<br><br>Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,<br>Is the immediate jewel of their souls.<br>Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;<br>'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;<br>But he that filches from me my good name<br>Robs me of that which not enriches him,<br>And makes me poor indeed.
    Old Timer 8080
  • RE: TRUSTe responds to Facebook privacy problems...

    TRUSTe just gave everyone a Mea Culpa....

    And made darn sure that it was written in a manner that tries to absolve their organization from any legal responsibility.

    Typical immoral, but not illegal response for any company today...

    My facebook page contains the bare minimum. I don't feel that the privilege ( not right, BTW ) to obtain any more information has been EARNED by Facebook and many other social networking sites. They don't secure their PI enough to satisfy me.
    Using a site to find a job or use for specific goals ( like this one ) deserve a release of more information; they are tools to get a certain job done.

    The Bard of Avon says it best:

    Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
    Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
    Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
    'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
    But he that filches from me my good name
    Robs me of that which not enriches him,
    And makes me poor indeed.
    Old Timer 8080
  • RE: TRUSTe responds to Facebook privacy problems...

    Sorry about the double post. Things are weird today....
    Old Timer 8080
  • TRUSTe is a paper tiger

    Like many other "certification" bodies today, they deliver zero value to the public. They are nothing but a marketing company dressed in robes of pseudo-impartiality.
    terry flores
  • RE: TRUSTe responds to Facebook privacy problems...

    I hate facebook. It's caused so many fights between my bf and me because of the unnecessary comments he leaves on girls pages. It's best to confront him or her at first.
    http://renadexsite.com
    zeiglermandy
  • RE: TRUSTe responds to Facebook privacy problems...

    Well TRUSTe is the one who knows how to do it the right way, I think. I, however, have found another article that I recommend:
    http://www.likemetweet.com/Facebook-news/facebook-privacy-problems.
    AdrienMackenzie
  • good idea about facebook

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