[iDC] Facebook from the trenches
aschiffler at ferzkopp.net
Mon Jun 18 09:44:05 EDT 2007
A Slashdot post entitled "Facebook Apps Facing Delays and Uncertainties"
caught my attention this weekend. It was written by a developer working
with the Facebook API which is an interface to extend the webservice
with custom functionality by creating 'Facebook Applications' and a
poster child for our new Web2.0 world.
I am mentioning this article as a bit of a follow up to the recent
Feedburner discussion and its tangents on 'garage entrepreneurship', the
issues around privacy as the network is developed by private companies
and the data-in/data-out conundrum when owners change.
Let me summarize a few points which I found interesting.
The author of the comment points out how unsatisfactory the situation
really is for someone "in the trenches", committing his free (or not so
free) labor on growing the Facebook cyberspace. Noteworthy in my view
are particularly these comments: " ... /While I'm impressed with the
potential of the platform, the experience has made me more concerned
about the lack of transparency in privately held social networks and the
risks we take as developers when we invest time in a company's
platform/. ..." and "... /My concern with Facebook is that there's no
one regulating the utility. ...". A call for regulation?
/In the responses the author of the above comments takes a lot of 'flak'
along the lines of "/I honestly have no idea where the question came
from. Maybe he's just idealistic./" But many ignore the more ideological
tone and chime in on the technical critique with comments like ".../
facebook is turning into myspace/", " ... [Facebook] /Applications have
ruined it/." and "/In term of failed platforms, I think I have a long
list I invested time in/.".
A general consensus seems to be apparent throughout the discussion (ok,
Slashdotters are tech geeks) that Facebook has provided something
worthwile and quite cool. But while many developers like the ideas of
Facebook having an API, being open, allowing for creative invention it
seems to leave some bitter taste behind hat seem to capture the 'been
there, done that' feeling expressed as "... /It's an over-hyped rehash
of the concept of a forum./". And since most readers are likely 'garage
entrepreneurs' (or working for them) the regulatory comment is dealt
with quickly: "/In a free market, the customer regulates. In fact, by
raising your concerns, you are doing it right now./" - in my view a very
mechanical response by the developers. Privacy does not become a
dominant thread in the discussion.
But the readership IS sensitive to privacy issues and one commentator
finds this 'gem' as he/she calls it, which I quote in full:
II. Consent Regarding Use of Facebook Site Information
(a)_ Information That May Be Provided to Developers_. In order to
allow you to use and participate in Platform Applications created by
Developers ("Developer Applications"), Facebook may from time to
time provide Developers access to the following information
(collectively, the "Facebook Site Information"):
(i) any information provided by you and visible to you on the
Facebook Site, excluding any of your Contact Information, and
(ii) the user ID associated with your Facebook Site profile.
(b) Examples of Facebook Site Information. The Facebook Site
Information may include, without limitation, the following
information, to the extent visible on the Facebook Site: your name,
your profile picture, your gender, your birthday, your hometown
location (city/state/country), your current location
(city/state/country), your political view, your activities, your
interests, your musical preferences, television shows in which you
are interested, movies in which you are interested, books in which
you are interested, your favorite quotes, the text of your "About
Me" section, your relationship status, your dating interests, your
relationship interests, your summer plans, your Facebook user
network affiliations, your education history, your work history,
your course information, copies of photos in your Facebook Site
photo albums, metadata associated with your Facebook Site photo
albums (e.g., time of upload, album name, comments on your photos,
etc.), the total number of messages sent and/or received by you, the
total number of unread messages in your Facebook in-box, the total
number of "pokes" you have sent and/or received, the total number of
wall posts on your Wall, a list of user IDs mapped to your Facebook
friends, your social timeline, and events associated with your
When one tries to add any Facebook application to their profile, it
says, from which the above was quoted:
In plain text: ANY Facebook application developer has access to ALL the
information stored in the Facebook profile (see section ii. b. to see
how broad that is). Me, you, the FBI, Google, spammers, ... just about
anyone who can make a cool application and gets it approved by Facebook
can tap into considerable amounts of personal data from anyone who
clicks on the 'Add' button.
I find that scary - especially when there is NO developer comment to
this particular 'gem', while other readers simply conclude it may point
to a failed business model because just "... /providing feeds on whats
your friends are doing so you can all effectively spy on each other in
the long run is not going to attract a lot more users/ ...".
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