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Facebook Apps Allowing Access to Numbers, Addresses

Today comes news (see excerpt and link below) of yet another depredation of privacy, again from the leader in that field, Facebook. Facebook will now open personal information, such as addresses and even mobile phone numbers, to its apps.

Previous to this it was almost impossible for commercial interests to find your mobile number. I got a couple of text spams a few weeks ago, but they were from companies that merely broadcast out over a block of regional numbers, not knowing who they were reaching.

Many readers will say that the opt-in screen will prevent unwanted leakage of personal information. That is true for people who are internet- and privacy-savvy, but there are two things wrong with thinking that way.

First, there are an awful lot – the great preponderance – of people who are not privacy-aware, who dive into social networking head first without checking out the depth of the water. And generationally, the ones most likely to do just that are the ones who are most vulnerable – our kids.

Second, we need to view all of Facebook’s privacy changes in context. Facebook has done nothing but engage in an incremental policy of wiping away all semblance of privacy and protection. The only counterpoint to the trend comes when public outcry reaches a crescendo, and it is fleeting.  IOW, what’s allowable today becomes mandatory tomorrow, unless a greater opposing forces arises.

I’m not here to bash Facebook. It happens to be a very convenient way to follow thought leaders and interact with like-minded people. I am trying, though, to warn people – and especially parents and young people – about the dangers of indiscriminate social networking. Not only are there headline-steeling wackos out there, there are commercial lizards who work sublimely to exploit you as much as possible. Each is dangerous in his own way.

Quite a few years ago the Internet was a fascinating and also safe place. It still is fascinating, but it is no longer safe. I’ve watched as one theater after another has gone to seed. First was Usenet, then the IRC chatrooms. Both started out as totally free open forums, and both degenerated into profane anarchy and spam.

The difference with Facebook is that it is a closed system controlled by private commercial interests. Everything that happens there happens by design, for a purpose.

We still have the power to say no. We can deny those applications access to our data. We can use a false name to sign onto Facebook. But beware – the power to say no decreases from disuse. It’s the old frog in the pot analogy. If you agree to small incremental changes, pretty soon you find yourself in hot water, and you may be too weak to get out.

Facebook Apps Allowing Access to Numbers, Addresses
ARTICLE DATE:  01.17.11
By  Chloe Albanesius

Facebook recently announced that it is making user phone numbers and addresses available to developers, a move that a security expert said “could herald a new level of danger” for Facebook members.

Facebook isn’t just releasing this information into the wild; it’s adding it to the company’s “User Graph object,” or the permissions required to install an app.

“Because this is sensitive information, we have created the new user_address and user_mobile_phone permissions,” Facebook wrote in a blog post. “These permissions must be explicitly granted to your application by the user via our standard permissions dialogs.”

Facebook said the permissions only provide access to a user’s address and mobile phone number, not their friend’s addresses or mobile phone numbers.

Before installation, Facebook apps currently display a permissions-based menu that informs users what type of information the app is accessing. Going forward, users will be informed when the app accesses their phone numbers or addresses.


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