The blogosphere was lighting up this weekend after a controversial blog post by Facebook’s Jeff Bowen, saying that the social networking site would make users’ home addresses and mobile phone numbers available to third-party app developers: “We are now making a user’s address and mobile phone number accessible as part of the User Graph object.”
That posting was released at 9 p.m. Friday night, but it immediately hit the hot buttons of people concerned with protecting their privacy. Security firm Sophos went so far as to call the decision a “recipe for disaster, given the prevalence of rogue scam applications already on Facebook, all of which benefit from apparently being blessed by the Facebook name and brand.” It would, Sophos suggested, make it easier for rogue app developers to send out spam and even engage in identify theft by exploiting other information already available on the site. One user was so annoyed by the announcement that he Tweeted that everyone change their phone number to (650) 543-4800, Facebook’s customer service number. Apparently, he did not have Mark Zuckerberg’s private number.
By Monday night, Facebook responded to the public outcry by reversing its decision. Its next blog pos, by Douglas Purdy, said that the company had responded to the “useful feedback” by “making changes to help ensure you only share this information when you intend to do so.” Since it would take some time to make the update, they “will be temporarily disabling this feature”—not that they have, but that they “will.” Of course, that post was made at 2:25 a.m. Tuesday, so one can only wonder how much information was released between Friday and Monday.
This was just the latest flip-flop in a tumultuous holiday weekend for Facebook and its flip-flop clad leader. At the Golden Globe awards, Aaron Sorkin spoke about how Zuckerbuck “grew up to be an extraordinary leader, visionary and altruist,” a far cry from how he was portrayed in the film. And then there was the flip-flop announcement from Goldman Sachs, saying that American investors will be unable to participate in the private stock offering of Facebook shares, which would be limited to European and Asian investors. Considering Russian interest in Facebook, it shouldn’t be too hard to find some investors.