Amidst a slew of heated arguments this week surrounding Facebook’s stance on privacy, yet another blemish has been added to the mix. Many people woke up this morning to find that the popular site had decided to serve up unwanted apps without any consent or control on the part of the user.
This morning, Facebook quietly added apps to your profile for certain websites you may have visited while logged in to FB. You didn’t need to have an actual Facebook window open… you simply had to have not logged out after your session. There were no notifications nor any opt-out buttons to check or uncheck. Some of the sites whose apps were added include Mashable!, TechCrunch, and the USA Today (at least in MY profile). All of the sites who left this trail all have Facebook integration on their sites, and the app install appeared to have been related to the social networking site’s new sharing features and tools.
If a website installs something onto my computer without my knowledge or consent, that “something” is labeled as malware. In my mind, these apps were exactly that. They weren’t something I chose. They were installed on my profile without my even knowing it until this news broke. There was no way that I could easily find to remove them, either. Only after I read up on the announcement did I figure out how to get rid of them. The problem is, if I don’t completely block them they will just re-install the next time I visit those sites.
The new “features” in Facebook’s Open Graph API are supposedly there to be used with your permission to cross-post your comments between the site and external sources. For example, if you commented on a story over at TechCrunch, a pop-up will ask you if you want to publish the comment as a wall story on your Facebook profile, as well. YOU had the choice to allow this or not. This morning, that freedom to choose was stripped away from you.
Hours after the dam broke free, Facebook released a statement:
There was a bug that was showing applications on a user’s Application Settings page that the user hadn’t authorized. No information was shared with those applications, and the applications did not appear to anyone but the user. This bug has been fixed.
According to some reports, though, the problem still persists. While information may not be shared with the sites, their apps are still showing up in profiles after removal. The only way to completely get rid of them is to block them in your app settings.
This is but one more slap in the face for Facebook. However, the site appears to remain unconcerned. With the government already stepping in to attempt to reign in Zuckerberg and his team, I would think that the site would be more vigilant than ever when it comes to letting “bugs” such as this crawl through.