Cartoon about Facebook.
Facebook has had a security breech, again. Photo by Geek & Poke

Popular Facebook apps have been caught collecting and disseminating personal information. The app developers sell the information to advertisers targeting the personal habits of Facebook users. Facebook apps known to be collecting unauthorized personal information from tens of millions of Facebook users include FarmVille, FrontierVille and Texas HoldEm Poker. In response to the latest Facebook privacy issue, the company said it had shut down the offending Facebook apps.

Facebook faces yet another privacy problem

Personal online habits are targeted by companies who are able to get  tens of millions of Facebook users’ IDs from Facebook apps. At least 25 advertising firms and data processing companies were able to have access to Facebook user ID numbers because of Facebook apps, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation. The concerns of Facebook privacy and whether the company is going to keep information private are because, according to the Journal, Facebook user IDs being transmitted is a violation of Facebook rules.

Make money, worry about profit later

Independent developers write most of the apps on Facebook. According to Ars Technica, Facebook apps can get a user’s Facebook ID. This is done when an app is being put on the profile for the user. Occasionally, the app will put Facebook ID numbers on a person’s own server. This can happen even when Facebook privacy settings are set to prevent it. Other apps, including Farmville, transmit personal information about the user’s friends to data tracking companies. Even apps like LOLapps and Family Tree aren’t safe as RapleafInc, the company that developed these apps, was putting user ID numbers on its own database. Then, about 12 companies had this information sold to them.

Facebook app developers apologize for what happened

Facebook shut down Rapleaf apps on Friday. According to Information Week, Facebook pulled a lot of other popular games as well. Critter Island, Diva Life, Band of Heroes, Yakuza Lord and Facebook Dante’s inferno and Champions Online were all pulled. On Sunday, the Facebook developer blog said the developers didn’t intend to collect personal information, but it accidentally happened because of how browsers work. Access to apps was restored to all users after closing the data loophole. Monday, LOLapps blog said that it’s sorry users couldn’t play its games over the weekend. It didn’t apologize for stealing their information.

Articles cited

Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304772804575558484075236968.html

Ars Technica: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/10/many-faceook-apps-found-to-be-collecting-selling-user-info.ars

Information Week: http://informationweek.com/news/smb/security/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=227900160&cid=RSSfeed_IWK_All

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