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Facebook is invading

Facebook is becoming pervasive. There are many, many sites now offering a “sign in with Facebook” option – in fact, when I signed up for a trial with NetFlix in the UK, this was the *only* way to sign up.

There was an initial backlash when Facebook created this technology and sites included it – sometimes, comments they had made on other people’s Facebook posts were appearing on other sites. The details have been tweaked, and, some time later, I don’t see anyone complaining any more. Those that did complain were in the know (i.e. at least slightly techie) and paranoid.

My friend likes cars, and posts on a UK car enthusiasts site. Based on what he’s said, fe seems to have linked his Facebook account to the car site, and, once the car site went live with an update to their back end, suddenly *everything* he posted on the car site also appeared on Facebook. And he didn’t like that.

Now, as far as I am concerned, Facebook know too much about me. They know a couple of hundred acquaintances of mine, relationships, whom I’ve been photographed with, and stacks of other stuff. I even stupidly put all the countries I’ve visited since I was born in last month. This data (not mine, but everybody’s, combined) is the gold-dust of the coming ten or twenty years. Massive amounts of, personal data. If you’re logged on to Facebook, Facebook can track you as you

In a way, I am really glad that Google+ is not taking off. (For example, there are plenty of “sign on with Facebook” sites, but not many “sign on with Google+” sites.) Because not only would Google collect the data Facebook get, they have years of learning what to do with it, and they can also aggregate it with all the data they get by selling adverts. A quick Google (oh, how ironic!) suggests Google own between 38% and 55% of the search market, so the chance is that if you hit a web site, the adverts are served by Google, and so they increase their knowledge of your surfing habits. And also your shopping habits, your leisure interests, even your hobbies, passions and most secret secrets – if you use the web for that kind of stuff.

I was prompted to write this for two reasons. One was a blog post by some techie dude who tried out a lot of new technologies. He was trying some new social media app and said something like “I usually select the ‘sign on via Facebook’ option because these things need to know about your contacts, and that would mean I have to enter hundreds of pieces of data.” What? He’s obviously a techie (from his blog; truest me on this), so he knows the possibilities, but he chooses to *give* all this data to someone else just to make his life more convenient. He really should know better!

When you sign on via Facebook, you have to install a Facebook app and the Facebook site lists what the app is allowed to do. Here is what an app I used to enter a competition today says it will get access too:

  • Access my basic information
    Includes name, Profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends and any other information I’ve made public.
  • Access my data any time
    may access my data when I’m not using the application.
  • Post on my behalf
    may post on my behalf, including scores, achievements and more.

Well, all I wanted to do was enter a competition, and now I have granted access to all my networks (that may include you, if you know me on Facebook – sorry!) and data. And, when I actually entered the competition, I had to provide my email address again!

The other reason that’s spurred me to write this is that my son plays an on-line game – an empire building game – and I decided to join him. The game is an established one, there is even a third-party market for things like strategy guide. The producer has released a version 2.0 which – surprise surprise – includes a link to Facebook. You can use Facebook to tell your friends that you’ve made an advance, conquered a rival, whatever. Of course, this is free advertising for them. And to sweeten the deal, you gain resources (an in-game term for wood, iron, etc.) for every Facebook friend you have. But, everyone who does this are giving all that information to another company.

I regularly review my Facebook apps, and trim them. These days if I enter a competition via Facebook, I immediately delete the app. I would encourage you all to review your Facebook apps, and decide which ones you really need.

Again, I’m glad that Google aren’t succeeding in this market yet, because they probably remember more about your web surfing than you do. Really, they probably do.

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