Facebook’s announcement that it will suspend the debut of a new feature allowing app developers to gain access to users’ home addresses and phone numbers leads them to a pivotal point.
Without question, the rise of the social network has been marred with controversies about its user privacy settings.
In this latest episode, a change to the ‘Request for Permission’ box that appears when a user attempts to download a third-party app included a notification that contact information would be accessible to app developers upon download.
As always, there are two sides to consider. Users and privacy advocates are worried that these slight modifications are another example in a long line of complaints of shadiness related to the privacy of user information and content. They worry such minor adjustments just go unnoticed and users unknowingly subscribe to giving away their info.
It’s an understandable gripe, but it’s not like there isn’t notice about what they are doing. Just because it may be hard to detect the difference from the usual request, you can’t really blame Facebook for the inattentiveness of users, can you?
Unlike previous mishaps where Facebook essentially told users “we own your stuff, deal with it”, this instance gives users two simple options – Allow or Don’t Allow. Simply excluding personal information from the user profile is an easy option as well.
Facebook’s argument is that on top of being subject to the agreement of the user, apps only retrieve information required for it to run, Facebook spokesperson Malorie Lucich told ReadWriteWeb.
Facebook’s message about the postponement of the changes said they heard the complaints loud and clear and plan to alter the feature to better disclose what submitted information is used for. Exactly how they will carry out this plan isn’t known yet.
As Facebook grows, it’s going to seek more ways to earn profit. As a giant hub of personal information, it offers third-party sites a chance to gain exposure to users they feel they could best cash in on. It’s a natural marriage, but is Facebook getting too big for its britches, so to speak?
What started as a place for you to connect and share with who you choose is becoming a place where – if you will allow it (and unfortunately sometimes when you don’t) – your information is being shared for commercial gains.
Maybe they can toe that line without mishandling the personal information of its users. If so, now is the time to prove it.