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Understanding What Facebook Apps Really Know (FAQ)


October 25, 2010

A recent report from The Wall Street Journal found that an oversight on Facebook’s behalf allowed application developers to sell user data to marketers and advertisers.  Although the report detailed a “breach” of Facebook users' ID numbers, defenders of the social networking site blamed the developers that were violating Facebook’s developer terms of service. 

Facebook claimed the sharing of ID numbers was inadvertent, and industry professionals noted the site is not alone in the controversy.  Many other companies, online and offline, have access to more personal information than most Facebook applications ever will.

Facebook applications "probably got access to less information than if you went to Orbitz and signed up and didn't opt out," explained Scott Vernick. And, he noted, that opt-out can be difficult to spot. "Any time you go to any retail site on the Internet, any hospitality site, any restaurant site, any number of sites, and you put in your information--your name, your address, your e-mail address, where you live, those kinds of things," he explained, "unless you opt out, then someone's likely to sell that information and then you're going to be subjected to all kinds of advertisements."

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