Facebook is coming under fire after the Wall Street Journal reported that the users of popular apps are having their personal information sold to at least 25 advertising firms and internet tracking companies. According to the report, Facebook is selling information even on users who have switched to the social networking site’s strictest privacy settings. The apps providing the information include every one of the ten most popular applications. Included are many popular games from Farmville to Texas HoldEm Poker to Quiz Planet, as well as apps like Familybuilder, which is used to build family trees. In the most egregious instances, information is being collected not only about the users themselves but about their friends as well.

RapLeaf is just one of the companies that has been collecting information from Facebook apps. The company specialized in “compil[ing] and sell[ing] profiles of individuals based in part on their online activities.” Among RapLeaf’s clients are Google’s own Invite Media. RapLeaf has since responded by placing the blame on the websites and ad networks themselves, saying that, “As of last week, no Facebook ads are being transmitted to ad networks in conjunction with the use of any Rapleaf service.  The transmissions, when they occurred, were not a result of any purposefully engineered process by Rapleaf. Instead, they were due to broader issues—as discussed in the article—concerning site referrer URLs, which are managed by sites themselves and ad networks.” Vice President Joel Jewitt added that “We didn’t do it on purpose.”

Facebook’s own policies state that app makers are prohibited from transferring data about users to outside advertising and data companies, even if the user agrees to having the information shared. The problem, however, is how to police over half a million apps that Facebook users regular use. However, Facebook also admits that it has disabled “thousands of apps at a time,” for violating this policy.

In fact, many of the most popular apps have been disabled since Friday. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether the company has done enough to address all of the concerns.
Read More at the Wall Street Journal.
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