Another Facebook Privacy Issue

It’s been a busy few days in the search world. Last week Bing and Facebook announced their joint partnership in delivering fully personalized search results to people using Bing as their engine. Google responded with an unenthusiastic “Ok, and? Our mobile made oodles of dollars.” and as of this Monday, Facebook is still making news.

The Facebook/Bing partnership is an interesting twist in the “World of Mouth” direction of the web. Using Bing as your search engine, you will see your results with social search automatically enabled for you; Facebooks rather famous “opt-out instead of in” ideology. You’ll be able to peruse what your friends and family on Facebook felt about the subject you’ve decided to search on. It adds that familiar ” Likes this” to your SERPs. A module built into Bing which you can disable, but with a forward looking future, able to deliver more dynamic personalized results.

Jump to Monday afternoon, and Facebook finally admits that yes, their app developers may have had a privacy problem. Engineer Mike Vernal said they believe devs were unintentionally sharing Facebook user id’s, but that it was a violation of the site wide privacy policy regardless. “Knowledge of a UID does not enable anyone to access private user information without explicit user consent,” he claimed.

“Nevertheless, we are committed to ensuring that even the inadvertent passing of UIDs is prevented and all applications are in compliance with our policy.”

It’s estimated that millions of apps users are affected by the programming error, and that the top ten most popular apps all had the issue. Farmville, Mafia Wars and other Zynga titles were all sharing unique, private Facebook User ID’s. A blatant breach of privacy, to add to the list of concerns already with the social networking giant. And if that isn’t enough to make you stop harvesting crops on Farmville, or knocking over a bank in Mafia Wars, Facebook doesn’t even know how to fix the privacy problem.

Why does this relate in anyway, other than name, to the Facebook/Bing social search partnership? It bears mentioning that if the module works the way it’s described, it accesses your personal information on your computer in order to build your personalized results. Imagine all of the cookies the average Facebook user has in their browser history for that module to munch on; and share.

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