UPDATE: In a carefully worded statement at 11:25 PM Monday night, Facebook has retracted their permissions to developers for user address and mobile numbers. In their post, they state that they will re-introduce the "feature" with updates and "improved" features. We hope this means users retain control of key - and intimate - aspects of their private information.
Last Friday at 6:00 PM, Facebook rolled out new permissions that give applications access to individuals' addresses and phone numbers.
So if you use any app, like a game, the window you must click to allow it access to your profile (so you can use the game) now gets more personal info about you than ever before.
There is no way to opt-out. As you can see above, all personal data is being treated as if it were of the same value.
So if you want to play FarmVille (and Zynga wants addresses and phone numbers from this point forward), you have to grant Zynga permission to the home address and phone number in your profile. If you don't want to let them have access, no farming for you, pal.
This is for all apps who decide to implement this new "feature" for developers, including ones that might be malicious. Or opportunistic app developers who try and land-grab as much data as possible to sell to third parties.
I think it is the equivalent of handing your ID to an anonymous telemarketer somewhere in the world. Ever order something and had your address or phone number sold?
With Facebook's value through the roof, you can bet your privacy they're going to monetize your dearest data. In a way, if you've shared it with Facebook, you already have.
The new screen (above) is the dialogue box in its new form.
One big problem is that people have been trained to click through this screen; the box now says it's sharing the information but it does not really look any different than it did before. For people already overwhelmed by Facebook (like your kids and your grandma) it will be easy to miss.
Also, because the new window doesn't say sharing address and phone number is a new thing, users are likely to think that on signup for CityVille that this is normal and all their friends have done it, and since their friends are not currently experiencing problems then everything must be fine.
Is Facebook capitalizing on the "everyone is doing it" mentality?
The real answer to that is a question: when have they not?
Don't forget that with Facebook, people are made to use their real names and real information. Inexperienced social network users are likely to put their address and phone numbers into their profiles simply because the form fields are there. And that social conditioning, which many are taught, is what you are supposed to do with forms.
While most young girls grow up knowing that you don’t give your number (or address!) out to strangers or put it online, most guys are likely to not get at first glance why this is the significant breaking of a social personal safety rule. What's worse, it's on a commercial and institutional level.
I'm sure it will be fine. I mean, it's not your credit card data. Oh – wait.
This reminds me of how Google's Eric Schmidt responded in a CNBC interview when asked about regular people sharing information with Google as if the company were a "trusted friend." His reply was basically that if you didn’t want people to know it, you shouldn’t share it online.
I'm guessing Facebook feels the same way.
Some people are saying that making the barriers of access zero-to-nothing for apps and their developers to your home address and phone number is a recipe for disaster. That it is a violation.
Some app makers and developers are happily commenting on the Facebook announcement saying, "Thanks! Really needed this!"
Other people are saying like it's 'crying wolf' by privacy nerds, and are arguing that since most apps don't "need" this data, and that we shouldn't worry about it.
Which camp are you in? Talk back in the comments and tell us.