Social networks may be sharing your info with advertisers
PC World - Lately, social networking sites have been bending over backwards to assure their users that user privacy is of utmost importance--but it may have all been in vain, as the Wall Street Journal discovered Thursday that several social networking sites are sharing, with advertisers, information that can be used to identify individuals.
A report in the Journal said that a number of social networking sites (including Facebook, MySpace, and Digg) may be sharing users' personal information with advertisers. Since the Journal started looking into this possible breach of privacy, both Facebook and MySpace have moved to make changes.
The practice is a somewhat defensible one -- and most of the companies involved did try to defend it -- in which the advertisers receive information on the last page viewed before the user clicked on their ad.
This is common practice all over the Web, and, in most cases, is no issue -- advertisers receive information on the last page viewed, which cannot be traced back to the user.
In the case of social networking sites, the information on the last page viewed often reveals user names or profile ID numbers that could potentially be used to look up the individuals.
Depending on what those individuals have made public, advertisers can then see anything from hometowns to real names.
The real problem is, of course, that social networking sites have the ability to obscure user names and profile ID numbers from advertisers -- but they simply haven't.
While many of the sites only reveal information about the last page viewed (which may not be the user's profile and may therefore not reveal anything about that person), Facebook was a more serious offender as it sent information on both what profile was being viewed and who was doing the viewing.
Ironically, these companies may be breaching their own terms and conditions--in which they promise not to share personal data with third parties, without the user's explicit consent and knowledge.
But as PC World reported last year, sites have a "huge amount of wiggle room with that promise."
[ Related read: Beware of privacy-policy loopholes. ]
While Facebook has made changes to fix this privacy breach (it fixed some of the code Thursday morning), the other sites claim their user names are not personally identifiable, because they don't require that users reveal their real names. Not only that, but "this is just how the Internet and browsers work," according to a Twitter spokesperson.
Anne Toth, vice president of global policy and head of privacy at Yahoo, said the advertisers don't want this personally identifying information. "If it happens to be there, we are not looking for it," she told the Journal.
Still, perhaps it's time to start thinking twice.
- NSA defends collecting data from U.S. residents not suspected of terrorist activities
- Groups fear bill would allow free flow of data between private sector and NSA
- Google's move into home automation means even less privacy
- Bill to require warrant for email searches gains ground in House
- Coming soon to a fridge near you -- targeted ads
- Snowden leaks prompt tech firms to tout privacy, transparency policies
- License reader lawsuit can be heard, appeals court rules
- Is EU's 'right to be forgotten' really the 'right to edit the truth'?
- Tails 1.0: A bootable Linux distro that protects your privacy
- Privacy jitters derail controversial K-12 big data initiative
- Need to Replace MS Threat Management Gateway? Read this article to learn how F5's Secure Web Gateway solution provides a full set of features that can help you successfully migrate...
- The Shortfall of Network Load Balancing Applications running across networks encounter a wide range of performance, security, and availability challenges as IT department strive to deliver fast, secure access...
- Leave No App Behind with Software Defined Application Services F5 Software Defined Application Services (SDAS) is the next-generation model for delivering application services that enables service injection, consumption, automation, and orchestration across...
- Five Key Issues for DNS - The Next Network Management Challenge Since every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup, loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS...
- Live Webcast IBM FlashSystem V840: Leveraging Software-Defined Flash to Drive Your Business With end-to-end, tightly integrated functionality and super-fast flash technology, products like IBM FlashSystem V840 Enterprise Performance Solution empower businesses to leverage the efficiency...
- DevOps with PureApplication System: Reduce cost and speed delivery with an integrated IBM Cloud solution Join this webcast to hear what ING Netherlands has been able to achieve while deploying DevOps tools from IBM Rational. An ING executive...
- What should I look for in a Next Generation Firewall? SANS Provides Guidance With so many vendors claiming to have a Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), it can be difficult to tell what makes each one different.... All Networking White Papers | Webcasts
Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!