Although news about it came out days ago, it took me until today to learn that at least ten of Facebook’s most popular apps have been sharing private information with third-party advertisers. This is according to a report by Wall Street Journal writers Emily Steel and Geoffery A Fowler, in the report, Facebook in Privacy Breach. Even if user’s have everything set to private, their Facebook user ID can still be shared. Information that is set to “everyone” can also be shared, such as age, occupation, residence and photos. This can also be used to track your behavior.
At first I shrugged it off. This is exactly why I don’t use any apps. I ignored every request from friends for Farmville, Café World and all the others. First of all, I thought they were a dumb waste of time. Secondly, I assumed from the start that since they were created by outside parties and not Facebook, that there was a pretty big risk of getting a virus or losing control of personal information. Even if I thought some apps were kind of cool, I stayed strong. I simply refused to get any apps, which lessened the guilt of ignoring all of the requests from friends. “It’s not you…it’s me.”
Wait. I guess I did use one app at the very start of this madness. It was an app that put a new Deep Thought by Jack Handey on your profile page every day. It was all good until I realized that the guy running the app was getting most of them wrong. I immediately got rid of it and warned others. So, I’m not perfect. But I will say that I never asked anyone to get the app. Regardless, I thought as long as I didn’t have any apps I was safe from this large-scale privacy breach.
But then I read about something called the “app gap,” which means that even if you never used an app, you could be at risk of losing your personal information if you are friends with people who do use apps. So, basically EVERYONE is affected. There is pretty much no one on Facebook who hasn’t used any apps who also has no friends who have.
Immediately, I thought of this comparison: I feel like people must’ve felt when it was discovered that you can still get cancer from second-hand smoke. “What? You mean I turned down cigarettes all these years and I’m still going to die from lung cancer? I should’ve just smoked!”
Some of those apps did appeal to me. The one where my friends kept track of all the books they read had me very close to giving in. But I knew once I said yes to one, it would make it that much harder to tell everyone that I just wasn’t into apps. I will still stay away from them, because personal information already shared or not, I don’t want to get a virus.
This also reminds me of an experiment we did back in high school to show how easily diseases, specifically sexually transmitted diseases, could be spread. We were all given a glass of water. Most of us started with clear, clean water. I think one or only a few people had red water. Then we each had to partner up with someone and mix our liquids. “So that’s what you kids are calling it these days!”
Well, those with the red water would obviously make their partner’s water pink. Then we all moved around and found a new partner. I don’t remember how many partners we had, but I think it was the average number of sexual partners people had in high school or something. By the end of three partners or whatever, nearly all of us had pink in our glasses to show that we had been “infected.”
Yeah, that was a bizarre thought, but it’s what came to mind when I read about this Facebook thing. Second-hand smoke and a strange high school experiment about STDs. Funny how that works. I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I guess I just wanted to let people know that Facebook apps are evil and to stop sending me requests. I don’t want to “share your water” or “breathe your smoke.” But it’s probably already too late, anyway.
Wondering which apps were found sharing information? According to a report by Helen A.S. Popkin on msnbc.com, titled, Just How Bad is Facebook App Privacy Problem?, here are the worst:
FarmVille: 59.4 million users
Phrases: 43.4 million users
Texas HoldEmm: 36.3 million users
FrontierVille: 30.6 million users
Causes: 26.7 million users
Café World: 21.9 million users
Mafia Wars: 21.9 million users
Quiz Planet: 16.5 million users
Treasure Isle: 15.3 million users
IHeart: 14.0 million users
Well, there you have it. Surely, you have used at least one of these apps or have someone in your friends list that has.
Hmm. After re-reading this, I’ve decided I don’t even like the word, “apps.” It doesn’t even sound like a real word anymore. And I suppose it isn’t a real word. It’s just an abbreviation. I’m tempted to find all the “apps” and change them to “applications.” Or maybe a completely unrelated word like, “monkeys.” C’mon, you know you want to re-read this substituting “monkeys” for “apps.” I just did and it was hilarious.
Here are my favorites:
“I simply refused to get any monkeys, which lessened the guilt of ignoring all of the requests from friends. ‘It’s not you…it’s me.'”
“Some of those monkeys did appeal to me […] But I knew once I said yes to one, it would make it that much harder to tell everyone that I just wasn’t into monkeys.”
“But then I read about something called the “monkey gap,” which means that even if you never used a monkey, you could be at risk of losing your personal information if you are friends with people who do use monkeys.”
Hahaha! This might be the most fun I’ve had in awhile. I need to find an old Mad Libs book. This is great.
Emily Steel and Geoffrey A. Fowler, Facebook in Privacy Breach, Wall Street Journal
Helen A.S. Popkin, Just How Bad is Facebook App Privacy Problem?, msnbc.com
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