Is Facebook Selling Your Personal Data?

The short answer is no.  The long answer is…they could be allowing, through their coding techniques, 3rd party vendors to access personal data that they can then sell to data miners.

From what I can surmise, the problem exists when Facebook allows 3rd party developers, Zynga in particular, to create games for Facebook.  To start playing, you need to ‘allow’ the game to access some of your data.  It appears that this data may be safe, BUT when Facebook automatically logs you into a game you are playing, it passes along your unique Facebook ID.  This Facebook ID is what is getting mined.

So now a 3rd party has your FB ID.  They can then reverse the process through FB to get to your public profile.  No matter how locked your profile is, they can still get your real name.  Once they have your real name, your wanderings through the world of FB are no longer anonymous.  You can be tracked as you play any myriad of games where FB has to pass your unique ID in order to log on.  If your profile is not locked tight, they can get much, much more.

Is this a big deal?  YES!  Most data mining is done anonymously.  Data miners look at trends and statistics.  None of the data can focus on an individual.  BUT, what if a data miner could sell a list of actual people that were interested in NASCAR, or MLB?  Advertisers could then do extremely targeted advertisements to those people.

Still no big deal because you get ads all the time?  Well, once the data is out it will eventually fall into the hands of people with more nefarious intentions.  Finding a listing of people that can’t lock down their profile is a list of people that probably don’t change their passwords, or don’t have strong passwords…in other words, people they can target to hack.

This is a big deal.  First step, if you are using FB, learn how to lock down your profile.  It’s time consuming and can be difficult, but it needs to be done.  Secondly, when asked for permission by a 3rd party app to access your personal data, READ exactly what it wants.  If you don’t absolutely need that 3rd party app, don’t allow it.  Lastly, if you’re not playing Zynga games, don’t start.  If you are playing them, make sure you lock down your profile.

Oh, and if I wasn’t clear enough, LOCK DOWN YOUR PROFILE!

Greg Gartland is owner of Gartland Technologies, LLC.  His Facebook page can be found here.  http://www.facebook.com/gartlandtechnologies

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