Many popular applications, apps, on the social networking site Facebook Inc. have been leaking identifying information like: access to people’s names, their friends’ names, to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, per a Wall Street Journal investigation.
This wrinkle spreads to millions of Facebook app users, even those whose profiles are on Facebook’s strictest privacy settings.
“A Facebook user ID may be inadvertently shared by a user’s Internet browser or by an application,” Facebook’s spokesman explained. ID knowledge “does not permit access to anyone’s private information on Facebook.” He added that Facebook would introduce new technology to contain the problem identified by the Journal.
“Apps” are software pieces that let Facebook’s 500 million users play games/share common interests with each other. The Journal discovered all of the 10 most popular apps on Facebook were leaking users’ IDs to outside companies.
Most apps were no longer available to Facebook users after the Journal told Facebook that apps were leaking personal information. No reason was given for their unavailability.
Online defenders of tracking point to the observation as beneficial.
No one knows, for sure, if developers of many of the apps leaking Facebook ID numbers knew that their apps were doing so. The apps were using a common Web standard, known as a referrer, which passes on the address of the last page viewed when a user clicks on a link. Facebook as with other social networking sites, referrers can expose a user’s identity.
It’s a ballooning concern of companies that store detailed databases on people to track them online.