Remember last week when I reported on a “small” privacy blunder committed by Facebook and their data portability app? Security software maker Symantec announced over the weekend that they noticed Facebook’s Android app behaving inappropriately, to the tune of uploading the phone number of the device to Facebook’s servers the first time the app is installed and launched, prior to any logins or other interaction by the phone owner. According to Facebook, they never used this information, and have since deleted it from their databases. Seeing as the Android Facebook app has been downloaded by several hundred million people, up until this “bug” was discovered and remedied, several hundred million people had their phone numbers harvested by Facebook without their explicit permission.
What this means for you:
Maintaining control over the privacy of your personal data requires constant vigilance on your part, and trustworthiness on the part of those who are requesting the use of your data. In this specific instance, a list of several hundred million mobile numbers isn’t very useful without any other meta data, but it highlights the larger issue at hand: can Facebook be trusted to be good stewards of your personal data? Should they have ever been trusted to the extent that most people have up until now? Recent events should put a great deal of caution into even the most open social networker, and should serve as a red-flag warning to everyone. Organizations are only as good as the people who run them. Apps are only as good as the people who program them. If your privacy is important to you, pay close attention to how others respect that privacy. Don’t reward bad or careless behavior with your dollars or loyalty, and don’t let inertia alone keep you from making informed choices.
FYI: “Facepalm”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facepalm