Wouldn’t you know it – moments after posting a response to an article that I was reading on Tech Crunch my RSS reader brings up another piece of ethical news from them about everybody’s favourite social network. It seems that, due to privacy concerns put forward by Canada, Facebook is going to be changing the way we interface with applications. More specifically, users are going to be made much more aware of just how much access they are giving to third-party companies to their personal data – which is a great step and partly makes up for Facebook’s attempts to patent crowdsourcing technologies that I discussed just moments ago.
This is a positive move – albeit only conducted due to outside pressure – as one of my main concerns about the popularity of social network sites is that the vast majority of users have no idea as to the terms and conditions they are using the site under.
Facebook is now, with this latest step, providing some amount of education to its users about just how widespread their personal data can be when they start accepting every application that comes their way. I honestly believe that many users would be shocked if they knew just how much of their private data they are giving away to unknown companies, and it will be interesting to see the impact this latest move has on the uptake of applications in the future. There is still, however, the issue involved in granting permission for access to certain data about your friends – one of the interesting by-products of the terms and conditions that we all agree to when using the site.
From their official blog, one of their representatives had this to say:
“we’ve committed to requiring developers to specify in advance what categories of user data they will need. When users authorize an application, they will have the opportunity to opt out of giving certain pieces of information. There may be some fields that, at minimum, are necessary for the application to function. We will make it clear that the user must authorize the required fields in order to use the application. We also anticipate that users will need to opt-in to giving applications access to their friends’ data.”
Personally, I want to be able to control who has access to my data; not just have my friends be given an option that many will probably ignore. There are still some improvements that need to be made by Facebook to help ensure that their site has good, ethical privacy policies at its core.
Privacy of our online data is an issue that really needs more of a spotlight placed upon it. We are now giving away more data than ever before, and very few of us even have any idea of just who that data is going to. Any steps made in making this process more transparent are positive ones in my book, and I can only hope that this decreases the amount of invites I have to assist someone in being a pirate/vampire/knight/gangster or to take a quiz telling me which kind of rockstar/country/philosopher/character I am most like…