Facebook has always walked a fine line when it comes to user’s privacy and how much user information they should or shouldn’t share. Last month Facebook announced on their developer’s blog that, as part of granting an application to access your data, it would also include your home address and your telephone number.
After a major uproar amongst Twitter users and a joint letter from U.S. Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) asking what Facebook was planning on doing with this information and exactly how transparent it would be to users what personal information was being shared.
“Facebook needs to protect the personal information of its users to ensure that Facebook doesn’t become Phonebook,” said Rep. Markey. “That’s why I am requesting responses to these questions to better understand Facebook’s practices regarding possible access to users’ personal information by third parties. This is sensitive data and needs to be protected.”
“Facebook’s popularity has made it a leader in innovation and we hope they will also be a leader in privacy protection,” said Rep. Barton. “The computer – especially with sites like Facebook – is now a virtual front door to your house allowing people access to your personal information. You deserve to look through the peep hole and decide who you are letting in.”
This gave Facebook reason to pause but apparently not for very long.
Facebook’s Marne Levine, vice president of global public policy responded to the letter saying, “We expect that, once the feature is re-enabled, Facebook will again permit users to authorize applications to obtain their contact information. However, we are currently evaluating methods to further enhance user control in this area.”
Normally my rule of thumb is don’t put anything on the internet that you don’t want the entire world to potentially see. Facebook managed to skew that view a bit since I do list a lot more personal information there because I know that friends and family will be able to access when/if they need to.
I’m not saying I’m totally against this idea but I do think Facebook needs to tread lightly here. One of the things I don’t like about their current “request for permission” is that it’s all or nothing. Users need to be able to control this on a more minuscule level. Using the example from the screenshot above you have to either allow or not allow both segments of your profile.
There are times when I don’t mind allowing third-party sites to access my “basic” information or to be able to post updates to my wall should I choose, however, I may not want those same sites to have access to my home address and phone number and I think this is where Facebook is dropping the ball. Give us the ability to pick and choose what information an application is requesting, don’t make it an all or nothing proposition.
What do you think? Are you OK with Facebook sharing your home address and phone number with external sites?