Facebook has suspended a facility allowing apps access to personal information

Tue 18th of January 2011, filed under Social Media

Raft of Criticism

Facebook announced at the end of last week that it had updated the amount of information users were able to share with external companies and applications. The 'improvements', as Facebook called them, meant that users approving certain applications would automatically allow them access to their personal information, including home addresses and telephone numbers. The upgrade was intended to benefit users and developers of e-commerce applications, for example airlines selling tickets, to speed up and simplify transactions through the site.

The weekend saw a raft of online criticism towards the move, however, and Facebook announced today that as a result of the 'useful feedback' it would be 'temporarily disabling' the feature. They did promise, however, to re-launch it again within the next few weeks. Most of the criticism centred on the possibility for 'rogue' application developers to add this new feature into their applications and use the personal information for illicit means. Unlike Apple, who screen all applications before making them available for users, Facebook simply makes developers agree to a set of terms. Some have simply ignored these and sold users' information to third parties? most are caught and suspended or banned, but, crucially, after the information had been shared.

Gradient Authorisation Suggested

Another criticism levelled at Facebook was the black and white nature of the new developments. Applications would come with a simple 'Allow' or 'Don't Allow' option, with all of your information being made available if you were to grant access. If you didn't want to application to access, for example, your phone number, you would have no option but to not use it. Many have suggested a gradient system of authorisation, allowing users to choose specifically what data they are allowing applications access to.

What changes will be implemented to appease the criticism remains to be seen, but Facebook seem determined to launch these new features. Here's their statement in full:

"Over the weekend, we got some useful feedback that we could make people more clearly aware of when they are granting access to this data. We agree, and we are making changes to help ensure you only share this information when you intend to do so. W?ll be working to launch these updates as soon as possible, and will be temporarily disabling this feature until those changes are ready. We look forward to re-enabling this improved feature in the next few weeks."

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