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What Fresh New Hell is This? – Facebook Adds Pickpocketing Feature to its iPhone App (Updated)

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Many of us followed the twitter griping surrounding Facebook’s recent privacy settings changes. Today’s release of Facebook 3.1 for iPhone is maybe the most frightening yet. For the first time, everyone’s favorite drunk-picture dissemination platform is reaching directly into your pocket for other people’s info.

They’ve even timed the release for the moment when all the world’s nerds-bloggers and nerd-journalists are distracted by the bright lights of Vegas and CES 2010.

This tweet from @hreingold sums it up pretty well I think:
@WithDrake Every time Facebook hamhandedly changes privacy settings, I have to consult EFF to figure out exactly how I am being screwed

For a little background: Facebook now treats your list of friends— along with your name, profile picture, current city, gender, networks, and the pages that you are a “fan” of — as “publicly available information”. Maybe more importantly, the user can no longer throttle the privacy settings on that info. But that was last week’s problem.

I love upgrading apps. I get a little warm, fuzzy, “I’m getting something for free” feeling. However, the needle on my crap detector jumped to 11 today when I downloaded the iPhone Facebook App ver. 3.1.  These screens, which appeared after the new Facebook 3.1 install, caught my eye.

Syncing grants Facebook full access to your address book. If you already sync your Gmail contacts with your iPhone address book, that means you will also be handing over the email addresses and names of everyone you have ever emailed.

I especially like the Last sentence on the second screen. Facebook may have no liability here (god knows we’ve all clicked “yes” to enough user agreements), but they seem to be trying to release themselves from an ethical dilemma of their own creation by asking if you could go around to your umpteen hundred friends and ask if its cool if you expose all of the data you store on the min your address book, to Facebook.

They don’t tell you what they might be doing with all this new data, just that you should make sure its cool with your friends. That’s like asking your friend to lend someone they don’t know their car. But don’t worry, this guy is cool. He’ll either wash it for you or sell it.

For LOTS more on Facebook and privacy, I recommend the EFF.

Update 03.04.2010 Found out today that this post was cited as supporting evidence in a motion filed by epic.org before the FTC. Its buried in part 37, but its there. Have a look at the original documents.

EPIC Facebook Supp-1

2 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. The phrase “comfortable with any use you make of their information” is shamelessly sketchy. At this point, I'd expect there to be a txt msg option for you to ask your friends if they are cool with it. Or at least something in my newsfeed that says, “Drake just sold all of Vanessa's information to a marketing company in Delaware with his new iPhone Facebook app ver 3.1. Click here to upgrade your ver.”

  2. “This is going to cause some discomfort” in the medical realm means “take your belt off and start biting it because it's going to hurt like hell.” You captured the weasel-factor in their wording, perfectly. I guess I've been spreading my personal info all over the interwebs for so long that the weasel words outrage me more than the privacy violation.

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