ACLU Targets Facebook Apps That Access Personal Info

The Northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has put out a campaign designed to raise awareness of the privacy implications of Facebook's developer platform. It's focusing specifically on the popular "quiz" applications, like "Which Cocktail Best Suits Your Personality?" and "Which Wes Anderson Movie Character Are You?" These are largely one-time-use apps that many a Facebook user clicks on and tries out with little concern. CNET reports.

According to the ACLU chapter, "millions of people on Facebook who use third-party applications on the site, including the popular quizzes, do not realize the extent to which developers of quizzes and other applications have access to personal information. Facebook's default privacy settings allow nearly unfettered access to a user's profile information, including religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, photos, events, notes, wall posts, and groups." For the promotion, it's put together a quiz about how much you know about Facebook-based quizzes.

Side note: Creating a Facebook quiz app to draw attention to the pratfalls of Facebook quiz apps is very meta.

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Facebook doesn't require you to post your religion...

and each one of these applications tells you that you are basically "friending" the game when you play which means you open your profile up to the game... if you don't understand those simple concepts, you don't belong online. the ACLU needs to relearn what its name means: "civil liberty" means you have the freedom to give away all your personal information if you want to... if you join Facebook and tell everyone everything about yourself, this is the exact expression of your civil liberties. so the ACLU wants to remove that freedom???

Reality Check

In an ideal world everyone would understand what's going on when they download an app in facebook, but the fact is they don't. It doesn't help that facebook does not give users an adequate explanation of what's really happening when they take a quiz or play a game. In Canada recently our privacy commisioner asked facebook to work on improving the handling or personal information in order to comply with our laws, which limit access to personal information to only the minimum required for the app to run. The Globe & Mail has an article in today's newspaper on how facebook has agreed to comply with the commisioner's requests.

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