Permission to Share, Please

As an individual without a background in programming, here is my [admittedly feeble] attempt to dig into how Open Graph accesses information.

I spoke with Dr. Aldridge today about how information is retrieved. He told me that information can be pulled in 3 different ways: FQL (Facebook query language), Java Script and php. Most apps will use a combination of these programming languages based on their needs.

The data must then be pulled, processed, then conceptualized. Actions logged by 3rd party apps are not necessarily logged by Facebook. The potential is there to monitor what kind of data a given app is pulling, but Facebook does not have the explicit ability to observe or track what third parties then do with the information they pull.

In terms of visualizing Facebook’s Open Graph, I found Facebook’s Graph API page, the most helpful resource out there.

Public information for any user can be found at https://graph.facebook.com/ID.

Here’s what my public information looks like:

{
   "id": "4928378",
   "name": "William Wickey",
   "first_name": "William",
   "last_name": "Wickey",
   "username": "williamwickey",
   "gender": "male",
   "locale": "en_US"
}

Pretty basic.

Any additional information about an individual must be retrieved through the use of an access token generated when a user accepts a permission request. Depending on the permissions of the app, that token may also allow that app to perform action on behalf of the user such a post things.

To access additional information, an app must ask for specific permissions from the user. Permissions are then divided into “Auth Dialog” and “Enhanced Auth Dialog” on two different screens. The first permission screen grants access to basic info such as user id, name, profile picture, gender, age range, locale, networks, user ID, list of friends, and any other information they have made public. The second screen (Enhanced Auth Dialog) must be used to access additional information about the user or their friends. One interesting aspect of Enhanced Auth Dialog is that these permissions are non-revocable; i.e. once users have allowed your application from the Auth Dialog, they cannot be revoked [by a user].

Permission Screen 1:

Permission Screen 2:

Here is a more extensive list of the information that an app can potentially access and the permissions required. This also includes actions that can be performed on the behalf of a user by an app possessing the necessary permissions such as create and modify events, create and edit the user’s friend lists, perform checkins on behalf of the user, etc. https://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/api/permissions/

If you’re curious, you can check out the apps you have already granted permission to here: http://www.facebook.com/settings/?tab=applications

Some websites that Facebook has specifically partnered with, like the ones listed below, access public information automatically in order to personalize experiences the moment you arrive.

While this list is small for the time being, Instant Personalization will doubtlessly grow rapidly. Essentially, the services listed above are trusted partners who have already been grated the initial stage of permissions to access user’s information. This is all part of Facebook’s “frictionless sharing” plan that aims to phase out the Like button in favor of automating the sharing experience. As more organizations partner with Facebook we may see the permission screen slowly phased out under the assumption that you want to share everything you do, unless you explicitly specify otherwise.


Facebook Privacy Policy — Nothing Private About It

When browsing around the facebook, I noticed that the section where it talks about their privacy policy is not called a ‘privacy policy’, but rather a ‘data use policy’. Apparently, there is nothing private about facebook.

As we have all come to know, once you create a facebook account, facebook owns you and all of the information you choose to post. Or that someone posts about you without first asking you. Or any other information they receive about us, just in general. These are seriously some of the categories that the ‘data use policy’ describes as being information that facebook now has about you. It also mentions your IP address, GPS location, and pages that you may search for or look at as information that facebook holds.

From watching a lot of SVU and NCIS, I know that it is pretty easy for a person to be found via their computer’s IP address and what websites they surfed. But to see it in writing that facebook has my IP address and GPS location, pretty much at all times since I access facebook on my phone quite often, is a little unnerving.

The data use policy also mentions that once you make your information public, anyone can see it, even non-facebook users. The terms of this policy also say, repeatedly, that if you don’t like their terms, you should delete your facebook. I think this is where facebook really has the majority of users in a chokehold: users want to see what their friends are doing and have their friends be able to see what they’re doing, and this desire outweighs the privacy issue. Therefore, while many people may complain about facebook’s lack of privacy, most of us aren’t willing to do anything about it. This is how the creep line keeps getting pushed further and further back.

Since information posted on facebook is public, there are a multitude of ways this can be used for good (such as Really Gets Me), but there are also an equal number of ways that it can be potentially harmful to the users. If you or your friends post pictures of you out partying when you called in sick to work and your boss happens to see it, you might be in some trouble. If your friend tags you playing putt-putt with your other friend’s boyfriend and the other friend sees it, you might be in some trouble. You see where this is heading.

As we can see from reading facebook’s data use policy, there isn’t really anything too private about facebook. As Jen found, facebook may not be selling all of this information (yet), but it is definitely accumulating all of our data. Maybe they are planning a mass digital attack on America, or maybe they just truly would rather keep our information to themselves, but either way, I think users could use a little more discretion in their posting, because we never know what the true motives behind facebook’s data use policy are, or how our public facebook information could turn on us in one way or another.


The Tipping Point – Privacy Issues

As I was browsing my Facebook, I saw one of my “friends” posted this status update last week. I thought this was a perfect blog intro, purely for the creep factor.  Now that I have some readers wondering if they’re mobile service provider is tracking them, too, it presents the question – when do people feel their privacy is no longer private?

The fact is, as the information highway continues to expand, more people are blindly hitching a ride at the cost of their own privacy. The web in its social form is about people-to-people communication, sharing and consensual building of online spaces. As the communication and sharing continues, more and more data will be collected.  Data that like recyclable materials, can be reused in many ways – such as, demographic marketing.  Cue spooky music.

Everyone knows social media sites such as Facebook, Google+, Linkedin use your personal data for themselves – and not only for themselves but enable others to use your data as well, which allows for subliminal features of communication.  Hey LinkedIn, how did you know I might want to connect with my landlord that I wrote to one time via email?  Oh well – ‘connect’, yeah 89 connections and counting!  Yes they are watching you closely. Actually many people are unaware of how much information Facebook is actually collecting about them, and it’s not as subversive as you might think – users voluntarily put the info out there.  The thing is, if you don’t regularly check your Facebook privacy settings- you are probably sharing more information than you thought.  If you’ve never checked your privacy settings, then you are definitely sharing more information than you thought.

Just last November, Facebook was held to the fire by the U.S. Trade Commission over a very public privacy issue that settled out of court. Charges included deceiving users and shared information that it had promised to keep private.

Now that Facebook has created the Timeline feature- even more privacy concerns have arose. There have been numerous complaints about private messages posted to a user which are now posted publicly on their timeline. Facebook has disputed these claims and said that they are older wall posts that were always public by individuals.

By offering up data, people may receive advertising they may genuinely be interested in, but this requires giving up some degrees of privacy. And I’m not sure everyone is ready to give out that information yet.  Like many, I’m not sure if I want the advertising world to know that I’m Gucci loving mother of 5 Jersey girl who works at a tanning salon (nice red herring to throw them off my trail)!  With Facebook having over 800 million active users, the 20-something age range and the ever expanding older demographics are no longer okay with social site dictating privacy in any form.

CEO of Google famously said, “ Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.”

I think many people are beginning to feel that their private information is at risk not just by social sites, but also by hackers. Google reported just today that it is introducing a campaign to ease privacy concerns.  The Good to Know campaign will be featured in dozens of newspapers and magazines.  The campaign is said to offer practical advice and tips on how to manage what kind of data people share with Google and other sites.

Since so much information is being collected about each of us, and privacy concerns are becoming more of a hot topic – companies are starting to establish a trust between us and them. However, it’s not likely you are going to be able to keep all your information private. And the bottom line: if you don’t want someone to potentially see something- don’t share it…unfortunately with anyone, not even grandma, that’s why this blog is going to sit comfortably on my desktop where no one can read it….