Facebook: Another Privacy Scandal

Your information could be leaking from third-party applications.

ByABC News via GMA logo
October 18, 2010, 7:39 PM

Oct. 19, 2010 — -- Facebook has acknowledged a problem with its site that reveals your name and the names of your Facebook friends to some advertisers, and potentially tracks the websites you visit online.

The Wall Street Journal tore apart the code in Facebook to determine what identifying user information was being forwarded to third-party applications such as Farmville, Mafia Wars and some of the quizzes you take. These are all add-on apps on which a user has to click to access Facebook, not features such as photos or videos.

The Journal found that in 25 instances the third-party app companies were taking in users' Facebook identification numbers. The number then tied into a user's profile and could identify the person by name, no matter how secure his or her privacy settings were.

The companies tracking you could then build a clear profile of your habits. If they used other Internet tracking technology to keep a record of the websites you visit and then married that to your name, this would be a clear violation of Facebook's policies, which has consumer groups up in arms.

"In general, what's going to happen here is targeting of ads," said Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to protect fundamental civil liberties. "The advertiser will be able to know a little bit more about you and target ads based on that knowledge.

"But the real question comes, where does it stop? If it goes to one company who then transfers it to another company, does that third company then transfer it further on? You lose control of where the information goes.

"And, on some level, if this information goes out beyond the advertising networks and becomes available to other, perhaps more nefarious users, they could use that information for identity theft or for targeting phishing attacks or targeting virus attacks," he said.