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Facebook Admits Some Developers Sold User IDs
Facebook Admits Some Developers Sold User IDs
By Barry Levine / NewsFactor Network Like this on Facebook Tweet this Link thison Linkedin Link this on Google Plus
Facebook admitted late last week that some developers have sold user IDs (UIDs) to data brokers. The popular social-networking site said it has taken steps to prevent this in the future, including a six-month suspension of some developers.

In a post Friday on the company's Developer Blog, Facebook's Mike Vernal said the company has "discovered some instances where a data broker was paying developers for UIDs." He noted that the developers were less than a dozen, mostly small developers, and that none of the apps were in the top 10 on the platform.

'No Private User Data' Sold

He also noted that some sharing of UIDs happened "inadvertently" due to "an issue with the way that web browsers work." He added that no evidence was found that this "sharing" resulted in the collection of private user information.

Vernal said "no private user data was sold." As this sharing or selling was a violation of company policy, the violators have been given a six-month suspension from access to Facebook channels and their data practices must be submitted to an audit that will confirm they are in compliance before they are allowed back.

In mid-October, The Wall Street Journal reported that many of the most popular apps on Facebook -- including Farmville, Texas HoldEm Poker, Frontierville and Mafia Wars -- were transmitting identifying information, including access to people's names and, occasionally, their friends' names, to dozens of advertising and Internet-tracking companies. Even Facebook users who had set their privacy settings to the strictest possible level were affected, the Journal said. The practice violated Facebook's stated policies.

Last spring, Facebook was found by the Journal to be transmitting user IDs to ad companies, but later ended the practice.

Database Correlation

With a user ID, a user's public information, including name, can be found. The Journal found that at least one data broker, RapLeaf, had correlated the user IDs with its own database of Net users, and had shared the Facebook IDs with other firms. This kind of data correlation can help to create a user behavioral profile. RapLeaf said the sharing wasn't intentional, and has agreed to remove all the UIDs it has. The company is no longer allowed to conduct activities on the Facebook platform.

Vernal noted that the company's policy has been been that data received from Facebook, including UIDs, cannot be shared with data brokers and ad networks. From now on, the policy will also say that UIDs cannot leave an application or any of the "infrastructure, code and services" needed to build and run an app.

Outside services such as Akamai, Amazon Web Services, and analytics companies can be utilized, as long as they agree to this confidentiality. Facebook said a "mechanism" is being established to make anonymous the user IDs that are shared with outside partners.

Tell Us What You Think


Stewart King:
Posted: 2010-11-07 @ 9:32pm PT
I think that anyone who ventures onto the internet, uses their real name or any personal details, and then expects their private information to remain private is a child or an adult with the comprehension and intelligence of a child.

Posted: 2010-11-07 @ 10:11am PT
Thank you for closing this loop, however, I was recently accosted by the firm advertsing on FB who offered IPADS and $250 off Best Buy to take up their offers. The usual deals, minus the fact that after choosing a couple, then the final step meant signing up for no less than NINE services...extremely rude! I am disgusted that they run this scam.

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