Facebook is the slowly-warming pot of water and we, my friends, are the frog. By the time we noticed our peeling skin, another hunk of our privacy is long gone.
"Facebook will be moving forward with a controversial plan to give third-party developers and external web sites the ability to access users' home addresses and cell phone numbers in the face of criticism from privacy experts, users, and even congressmen," the Wall Street Journal reports.
Is anybody surprised? Really?
This is how Facebook rolls: Strip away a huge chunk of your privacy, cry "Our bad!" and roll it back when users and/or privacy advocates complain. Then wait awhile, and do whatever it is Facebook planned to do anyway.
Voila! Boiled frog.
"We expect that, once the feature is re-enabled, Facebook will again permit users to authorize applications to obtain their contact information," Marne Levine, Facebook vice president of global public policy, wrote. "However, we are currently evaluating methods to further enhance user control in this area."
The statement is a response to a Feb. 2 letter from U.S. Reps. Edward Markey, D-Mass. and Joe Barton, R-Texas, who objected to the latest chunk of user info offered up to Facebook’s third-party developers.
"Facebook needs to protect the personal information of its users to ensure that Facebook doesn’t become Phonebook," said Rep. Markey wrote. "That’s why I am requesting responses to these questions to better understand Facebook’s practices regarding possible access to users’ personal information by third parties. This is sensitive data and needs to be protected.”
Facebook points out in its response that prior to activating a third-party application on Facebook (FarmVille, birthday notes, quizzes, etc.), users are presented with a prompt that describes the information they agree to share by using the app, and can choose not to authorize that app if they don’t want to share — that’s pretty much how it’s worked for a while, though true enough, many don’t read that for comprehension.
Minors especially don’t care about fine print, and to that end, Facebook stated that it’s considering "whether to enable applications to request contact information from minors at all. Further, "Facebook’s terms prohibit use of the service by minors under 13, and we employ various technical measures to implement that prohibition."
In a 29-page letter sent to the Federal Trade Commission last month, Facebook asked the FTC to consider consumers’ changing attitudes towards online privacy — increasingly "whatevs" attitudes the social network has had a large part in pushing for via its bit-by-bit dissolution of the privacy it once offered users and the "No biggie! We don’t care about monetizing your personal info! This is what’s best for you! We love you!" face it shows its users.
"It is very good for companies to actually be making privacy policies easier to understand," Nicole Ozer, a policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California told the Wall Street Journal. "But users should be looking for privacy policies that are not only readable, but actually protect their privacy."