Reports: Facebook applications jeopardizing personal info security

Anyone who uses Facebook regularly has seen them: posts about a lonely cow wandering onto their farm on Farmville, or that they scored 90 on Family Feud. Those posts are generated by two of the many applications on Facebook.

According to a report in today’s Wall Street Journal, these applications are jeopardizing the security of users’ personal information.

The Journal reports:

“Many of the most popular applications, or “apps,” on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information—in effect, providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names—to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings. The practice breaks Facebook’s rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users’ activities secure.

…Defenders of online tracking argue that this kind of surveillance is benign because it is conducted anonymously. In this case, however, the Journal found that one data-gathering firm, RapLeaf Inc., had linked Facebook user ID information obtained from apps to its own database of Internet users, which it sells. RapLeaf also transmitted the Facebook IDs it obtained to a dozen other firms, the Journal found.”

Facebook has many great uses, both for personal and professional purposes. But even as a social media fan, I freely admit that the more you put yourself, and information about yourself, online, the greater your risk of your personal information falling into the hands of the wrong people. And since, as the article notes, applications like Farmville are made by third parties, your risks go up even more. In my opinion, games like Farmville aren’t worth that risk, and are just a waste of time anyway. Stick to the main Facebook apparatus and the applications it designs itself.

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