Facebook users advised to delete personal details
Tuesday 18 January 2011
Facebook has courted new controversy by allowing developers of apps access to some of its 500 million users' most sensitive information, including telephone numbers and addresses.
The social networking site founded by Mark Zuckerberg, whose own stake is worth $12bn (£7.5bn), announced the change to its policy in a blog last Friday, but the post was intended for designers of apps rather than ordinary users so the change has only come under scrutiny since the weekend. Internet security analysts and privacy experts are now advising people to remove their phone numbers and addresses from the site.
While those who have Facebook accounts must grant individual applications permission to access their details, it is very likely that many people who have clicked their approval plenty of times before will not notice the change in terms and will pass on contact details unknowingly, leaving them more vulnerable to becoming victims of spam.
Facebook, which gives advertisers the ability to target users according to their stated interests, geographical location and other insights, has been criticised increasingly over the years for how it handles the privacy of its account holders.
Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at IT security and control firm Sophos, said: "The ability to access users' home addresses will also open up more opportunities for identity theft, combined with the other data that can already be extracted from Facebook users' profiles.
"You have to ask yourself – is Facebook putting the safety of its 500-plus million users as a top priority with this move?"
The official Facebook blog post on the subject explains that the company says: "Because this is sensitive information, we have created the new user address and user mobile phone permissions. These permissions must be explicitly granted to your application by the user via our standard permissions dialogs." It also says that people are merely able to grant external developers the ability to see their own details, rather than those of their friends. But it is often unclear who exactly is behind the small and seemingly harmless pieces of software available via the Facebook, which many users enjoy signing up for in order to brighten up their profile pages or to play games or quizzes with friends. Facebook has opted against a systematic program of vetting potential applications, such as that by Apple.
The website therefore inevitably hosts a number of potentially rogue, independent applications that have been designed by third parties to misleadingly gain access to users' information, and farm it out on as wide a scale as possible.
In a statement issued last night, a spokesman for the website said: "We want to make it easy for people to take the information they've entered into Facebook with them across the web. This new permission gives people the ability to control and share their mobile phone number and address with the websites and apps they want to use."
Life & Style blogs
Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
Boxing Day sales: The best fashion deals
Victoria Beckham's clothing sales double to £30 million in one year
'Tis the season!: Google celebrates Christmas Eve with second animated Doodle
Christmas 2014: Jesus was not born in a stable, says theologian
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 2 Antonio Martin shooting: Police and protesters clash over teenager's death just five miles from Ferguson, Missouri
- 3 British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
- 4 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
- 5 Man hospitalised with pneumonia after downing eggnog at office Christmas party
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£35000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Moodle Developer (PHP ,Linux, Apache...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
£21000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Award-winning pharma softw...
£30000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Java Developer is requ...