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Facebook 'erodes any idea of privacy'

Asher Moses (via SMH) | April 8, 2013
Facebook Home for Android phones has been dubbed by technologists as the death of privacy and the start of a new wave of invasive tracking and advertising.

Home effectively sits between you and your other apps, and is deeply integrated into Android.

According to Malik, in addition to knowing where you live Facebook could also "start to correlate all of your relationships, all of the places you shop, all of the restaurants you dine in and other such data".

Facebook says it maintains a list of apps that you have in the app launcher as well as information about your app notifications but identifying information is removed after 90 days.

"Facebook could see that you launched a map application using the app launcher, but Facebook would not receive information about what directions you searched for or any other activity within the app itself," Facebook said.

But IBRS analyst Guy Cranswick said Facebook's policy was always subject to change.

And just like many websites have Facebook features built-in, so do many apps, meaning Facebook has access to more data about your movements than you might think.

Cranswick points out that tracking users is core to what companies like Facebook and Google do and "consequently it's just not realistic to expect high walls around personal data because the system is driven by all that data".

He said many people saw their privacy as a fair trade-off for Facebook's functionality. "Privacy is not a concern when their social lives are simulations of celebrity," he said.

Facebook has a history of slowly pushing the boundaries on privacy, sometimes backpedalling when there's an uproar but often not.

A Facebook spokesman told Fairfax that the data it collects helps to optimise the user experience and was "for internal use only and not available to advertisers". However, while it may not release the data to advertisers it certainly allows them to target their ads based on increasingly granular elements of that data.

In addition to the growth in tracking and advertising, Facebook has also begun charging for certain parts of its service, including fees to message people who are not on your friends list and fees to get your posts seen by more than just a small fraction of your total friends/fans.

In an interview with Wired, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said he wanted to "push back" against the idea that there has been a "wholesale shift" within the company towards making money or "monetisation".

"We're making an even bigger investment in consumer products than we are on monetisation," he said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft head of corporate communications Frank Shaw has accused Facebook of ripping off Windows Phone with its new focus on "people, not apps" with Home.

"The content of the [Home] presentation was remarkably similar to the launch event we did for Windows Phone two years ago," he wrote on the company's official blog.


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