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Farmville App Steals Facebook User and Friends Personal Bio Info

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by copythis

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In The News

You might have been annoyed by Farmville app requests sent by Facebook friends but now you have reason to be pissed. Farmville and its maker Zynga--and ten of the top apps--are accused of one of the worst privacy breaches and harvesting ID numbers, “Friends” and other biographical data, allegedly sending that personal info to ad agencies and firms.
App creator Zynga and its "FarmVille," "Texas HoldEm Poker" and "FrontierVille” apps are now accused of harvesting information that app users have never authorized or intended—in a privacy breach that could include distribution of information that includes personal “Facebook Friends” and other private info.
Facebook’s response to the Farmville app scandal: the social networkin site plans to “step up security measures” in response to the privacy breach accusations, but it isn’t kicking the app’s maker, Zynga, off of the Facebook site.
Unbeknownst to Facebook users—or at least to the less paranoid of the social networking site’s users—Farmville’s been “harvesting” while app users have been focused on”‘growing” those farms. Wall Street Journal claims that ten of the most popular Facebook apps have been harvesting the social networking site’s users ID numbers. It all sounds harmless on the surface--after all, what could a company do with ID numbers, they’re just numbers? Not quite: those numbers are allegedly being used for personal identification—and that could mean a huge security and privacy breach that Facebook users weren’t counting on.
Wall Street Journal says Zynga has been using those IDs to identify personal details, the info then compiled into databases. Those databases of Facebook user info are worth big bucks—providing insight into user habits and to create personal profiling. The accusation stands that app-maker Zynga Info has deliberately been grabbing and compiling Facebook user profile information from the likes of its "FarmVille," "Texas HoldEm Poker" and "FrontierVille”—then sharing that private info with "at least 25 advertising and data firms."
If it’s all true, the actions would violate Facebook and Zynga's policies of not sharing user details with third parties without their permission. Biographical information for user accounts on Facebook, and even Facebook Friends of users, may also have been harvested by Zynga’s "FarmVille," "Texas HoldEm Poker" and "FrontierVille” apps. Facebook’s response to the Farmville app issue: "This is an even more complicated technical challenge than a similar issue we successfully addressed last spring on," a Facebook spokesman told Wall Street Journal, "but one that we are committed to addressing."
Of course there’s no word on exactly, or even generally, what the Facebook statement means.
Facebook hasn’t barred or banned the Farmville app, or its maker, from its site. Zynga claims to be “working with” Facebook—which may well have been what’s been occurring all along. The Farmville app creator has reiterated its own privacy “policies”. Two complaints have now been filed with the FTC pertaining to Facebook and the current Farmville privacy breach: consumers say Facebook is guilty of unfair and deceptive trade practices.
Facebook, meanwhile, seems to be shirking responsibility in the Farmville app issue: the social networking site acknowledges that the user information privacy breach may have occurred on its site, but that—if that is the case—distances itself by claiming that the social networking itself was not involved. In other words, the privacy breach may have happened via its site, but Facebook claims no liability, since the app’s maker would be the one stealing private information--never mind the concept that users provide personal information to Facebook, with faith that the social networking site will keep private information secure.
The latest privacy breach concerns don’t end with exposure of privacy breaches by apps: a whole new world of concern could open with this latest scandal--Farmville happens to be one of the most popular apps on Facebook, and got caught, but other apps may be just as guilty of security breaches.
Other apps may have also been relaying information to advertising agencies or other parties—to be later used by third parties to compile network information.
Zynga, creator and operator of the popular (and not-so-popular, with many whom are annoyed by the constant “requests”) "FarmVille," "Texas HoldEm Poker" and "FrontierVille” apps has this to say: "Zynga has a strict policy of not passing personally identifiable information to any third parties," says a spokesperson. "We [Zynga] look forward to working with Facebook to refine how web technologies work to keep people in control of their information." …so that we can figure out a new way to obtain control of that information


Zynga (Farmville App)
12910 Culver Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90066
United States
Phone: (310) 305-8027
33° 58' 56.5032" N, 118° 25' 35.5404" W
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