Friday, May 21, 2010

Social Media Networks Face Scrutiny Over Leaked User Data

Posted by Katie Noonan

Social media giant Facebook is in hot water this week amidst more allegations that it has leaked users’ personal information to third party advertising companies like Google’s DoubleClick and Yahoo’s Right Media (both Google and Yahoo said they were unaware that they were receiving this data and have not used it).

After an article published by the Wall Street Journal alleged that networks like Facebook and Myspace were sharing their users’ data with third parties, i.e. a person's real name, age, hometown and occupation, both companies modified their practices. On Thursday Facebook went as far as to rewrite some of the code in question.

According to Ben Edelman, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, "If you are looking at your profile page and you click on an ad, you are telling that advertiser who you are." While it is standard practice in Internet advertising for some data to be shared when a user clicks on an ad, personal information is never supposed to be shared with third party sites. Facebook's privacy policy is supposed to prohibit that.

As Facebook has moved toward making user profiles more public and searchable on the Web their privacy policy has become a major issue for many users. Some have gone as far as to launch an anti-Facebook page and website encouraging users to delete their Facebook accounts on May 31.

Others, including NYU students Daniel Grippi, Maxwell Salzberg, Ilya Zhitomirskiy and Raphael Sofaer, are now working on Facebook alternatives which will give users total control over their information and protect their privacy. The team set a goal to raise $10,000 by June 1 and have already far surpassed it raising more than $100,000 to fund the development of a new social networking site, the anti-Facebook, they say.

From both a personal and professional standpoint, Facebook can be a wonderful tool. On the social networking site brands have been built, grassroots movements have been launched, and people have connected from all over the world. I’ve been a Facebook user practically since its inception when you could only join with a university email address, but the lack of regard for users’ privacy and the sneakiness they sometimes exhibit when modifying their privacy policies is truly disappointing.

For those concerned about their privacy on Facebook, Mashable offers great tips for protecting your information as much as possible. I urge you to check it out.

1 comment:

Moiz Saleem Varind said...
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