John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski


zombies_cropped.jpgIt’s been nary a month since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized for the social network’s first privacy scandal, and already the site seems poised to embark on its second.

According to a new study from the University of Virginia, many of Facebook’s most popular applications access far more personal user data than is necessary. From the study:

We performed a systematic review of the top 150 Facebook applications in October 2007 and examined their information needs. We found that 8.7% didn’t need any information; 82% used public data (name, network, list of friends); and only 9.3% needed private information (e.g., birthday). Since all of the applications are given full access to private data, this means that 90.7% of applications are being given more privileges than they need.”

And what sort of user data are we talking about here? Pretty much all of it, according to the company’s terms of service.

In order to allow you to use and participate in Platform Applications created by Developers (“Developer Applications”), Facebook may from time to time provide Developers access to the following information (collectively, the “Facebook Site Information”). … Examples of Facebook Site Information: your name, your profile picture, your gender, your birthday, your hometown location (city/state/country), your current location (city/state/country), your political view, your activities, your interests, your musical preferences, television shows in which you are interested, movies in which you are interested, books in which you are interested, your favorite quotes, the text of your “About Me” section, your relationship status, your dating interests, your relationship interests, your summer plans, your Facebook user network affiliations, your education history, your work history, your course information, copies of photos in your Facebook Site photo albums, metadata associated with your Facebook Site photo albums (e.g., time of upload, album name, comments on your photos, etc.), the total number of messages sent and/or received by you, the total number of unread messages in your Facebook in-box, the total number of “pokes” you have sent and/or received, the total number of wall posts on your Wall™, a list of user IDs mapped to your Facebook friends, your social timeline, and events associated with your Facebook profile.”

Quite a list–and one that the social network’s users could recall the next time Facebook asks them to agree to “allow this application to … know who I am and access my information” …

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus