Farmville Could Land You in Trouble, Literally

The extremely popular Facebook game, Farmville, along with several other apps have been found transmitting users’ Facebook IDs to advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found. Breaking theFarmville news, the WSJ article states

The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings. The practice breaks Facebook’s rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users’ activities secure.

The id allows anybody to look up the user’s Facebook profile and grab the list of his friends, irrespective of the user’s privacy settings. It can also allow access to the user’s photos and other information, if they have been set to be shared with “everyone”. The advertising companies are prohibited from accessing these pieces of information directly. However, the breaching apps and sometimes, even the user’s browser, transmit the ids to the programs from the ad companies.

The article cites the example of RapLeaf Inc., a data gathering firm, which has linked the Facebook Ids it obtained from apps with its own database of Internet users. RapLeaf also transmitted the ids to dozen other firms, the article states. Reacting to the news, Joel Jewitt, the VP of Business Development at RapLeaf is quoted to have said “We didn’t do it on purpose”.

The list of apps includes the top ten popular games on Facebook . Farmville alone, for example boasts 59 million users worldwide. Facebook has started taking steps to plug the security hole. To begin with, Facebook has shutdown a number of apps that were found transmitting the ids, the article said.

Source:Wall Street Journal

The Social Network: Not the Geek Fix It Sounds Like

The Social Network is a great movie. It provides a view into the birth of one the most exciting companies of our times. It has the relentless pace and the trademark dialogue of an Aaron Sorkin production. Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake and Andrew Garfield have delivered fine performances, and the writers have done an admirable job of building a feature length story out of the amalgamation of facts and hearsay, while managing to stay out of legal trouble.

But a fix of geekiness, it is not. If you go in expecting to watch long coding sessions unfold, or watch the team get down and dirty in scaling technical hurdles, or even talk about these things for more than a few sentences, you are likely to be disappointed. The closest the movie gets to any of this is a few references to Linux servers, indexing and password cracking. Incidentally, a Bill Gates’ speech that Zuckerberg attends while he is still at Harvard has more technical content, even though it has nothing to do with the main theme of the movie.

The movie does not fully engage with the challenges – technical or entrepreneurial – of building something that is as big and complex as Facebook. Instead the passing references to technology only serve as a backdrop to an evolving legal drama.

Incidentally, Facebook has had so many challenging moments in its short journey. Coming from behind to trump MySpace and take over as the premier social network was one such moment. Overcoming the countless privacy issues and managing to regain people’s trust was another. How about the social networking aspect itself? Wasn’t it Facebook that actually gave the nascent concept form and shape, and turn it into the next big thing? So many things a geek could feast on, that the movie didn’t even mention.

Then again, there’s nothing to say there will not be a version 2.0 of the movie!

New Facebook Groups : The Good, The Bad and The Plain Annoying

Facebook GroupsFacebook announced the revamped version of its Groups feature last week, and much has been said and written about it since then. It is indeed a great feature and Facebook has got a number of things right:

Groups are Closed by Default

The default setting for a group is to be closed, i.e. accessible only to the members of the group. The only way someone can join a group is if an existing member adds them. Thus, when you post to a group, you can be certain that only members within the group see it. Other group settings are “Open” and “Secret”

Members can Opt Out

A member can choose to leave a group at any time. The opt-out option makes it as easy as clicking a button to do so. This puts the control right back into hands of the member.

Group Wall

Naturally, there is a group wall that any member within the group can post to. This keeps the conversation going without having to resort to email exchanges.
If those are the good things about Groups, there are a few not so good ones:

You Don’t Have Control Over Joining a Group

A friend can add you to a group without your knowledge. Like in the Places feature, this is perhaps the most unexpected thing that can happen with the Groups feature. Fortunately, this is where the opt-out function described above comes in handy. But, until you realize and opt-out, you will have to put up with the spam from the group.

Notifications Turned On by Default

And the most annoying thing with the Groups feature has be the fact that by default Facebook sends out email notifications everytime someone posts to the group. Between getting added to a group without notice and the default notification setting, you could very well wake up to an overflowing inbox.

Facebook Checks In with Places

Facebook Places on iPhoneFacebook officially joined the Geo-Location and Geo-Tagging race today with the unveiling of their Places product. Though the event was well attended, the news itself was hardly a surprise as rumors of the product have been doing the rounds for several months now.

Introducing the product, Michael Sharon, the product manager for Facebook Places identified the three key features they were focusing on, namely helping people share where they are, helping people see who is around them, and helping people seeing what’s going on. As part of sharing their location, users can upload pictures and tag friends who are along with them.

While this provides the opportunity for a whole new level of engagement amongst Facebook users, it also raises privacy concerns especially in view of the privacy problems that Facebook has had to deal with in the recent past. In order to address these concerns, Facebook has implemented a tighter privacy model around the new product. For example, one cannot tag a friend at a location without first checking themselves in. Users can also choose not to be tagged. Perhaps the most important of it all, the default settings allow only friends to see your visit or getting tagged at a place.

The product is currently available on the new version of the Facebook iPhone App, to be released later tonight, and on touch.facebook.com if you have a geo-location aware touch enabled device.

Leaders and Facebook’s predecessors in the geo-location arena, Foursquare and Gowalla, were not only part of the event, but also announced plans to leverage the Places API to enable tighter integration and new features.

Twitter to Insert Promoted Content in API, Share Revenues with Developers

Monetizing Twitter APITwitter is testing a new set of changes to its API whereby it can insert promoted tweets and promoted trends in search results returned to twitter clients. A promoted tweet is highlighted and displayed at the top of search results, whereas a promoted trend is a topic that is trending, but hasn’t made it to Twitter’s Trending Topics list.

As you may recall, Twitter released the Promoted Tweets feature on the Twitter.com website in April of this year and followed it up with the release of the Promoted Trends feature, also on the Twitter.com website, in June. The current move essentially brings these two forms of advertising to the Twitter API.

Twitter’s Developer Advocate, Matt Harris, broke the news in an email to the developer community. As expected, the developer community shot back a reply asking what was in it for them. In his reply, Matt Harris mentioned that Twitter would share the Ad Revenues with the developers. “We’re still working out
the exact value and will keep you informed on developments.”, he explained.

Users who make use of twitter clients seldom have a need to run searches, either for topics or users. So, it will be interesting to see the applications and features developers will come up with to make use of the revenue opportunity, and how those will change twitter usage.

Pic Courtesy:productivedreams

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