Month: April 2010

Why I Don’t Trust Facebook (And What I’ve Done About It)

You may have heard that Facebook is contemplating yet another set of changes to their privacy policy. The part that concerns me most is that they will extend your Facebook login to pre-announce you to other sites when you visit them. So, if you visit Yelp after logging in to Facebook, Yelp can read your Facebook login and recognize you without you having to log in to Yelp. On the face of it, it seems pretty cool – and I can certainly see the utility of it.

But here’s the catch. I never authorized Facebook to give that information. In fact, they’ve been pretty much told not to – between opting out of Beacon and being told not to include my information. I’m reading this as “even though you told us not to share your information, we’re going to anyways with this group of trusted third party sites.” In this case, I imagine “trusted” means “well-paying.” Certainly, I can opt out of this sharing – and I have. But who’s to say that, 6 months from now, Facebook will offer a tier of even more trusted third party sites access to my information? I’d really like it if Facebook would stop trying to figure out ways around their own privacy policy.

I understand that this is how Facebook makes money. I don’t begrudge them that. When it comes down to it, it’s how Google makes their money too. And Google has certainly had their share of privacy fiascoes – Buzz being the latest. The difference is, overall, I trust Google to handle my information. When they screw up, it doesn’t come across as malicious, just bumbling. I don’t get the same vibe from Facebook – see Beacon for the most glaring example.

So, what can we do? Well, the easiest way is to just close out your Facebook account and not use their service. However, I do like the convenience of their service and the fact that most of my friends are on there makes it very convenient. What I’ve done (after updating my privacy settings, of course) was to move Facebook to its own browser. In this case, I used Prism, which comes out of Mozilla and Firefox. Prism is a single site browser – it can be configured to only go to one site, like Facebook. There are other options, of course – the Fluid browser on Mac, for example. I chose Prism because it maintains a separate collection of cookies from the other browsers. Fluid shares cookies with Safari. With the purpose I have in mind, shared cookies defeats the whole point.

Now Facebook lives in its own little world. And all is okay, until the next time they decide to expand their reach.