New Facebook Privacy Issues... Again

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LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09: In this photo illustration, The British Monarchy Face book page is displayed on November 9, 2010 in London, England. Queen Elizabeth II is reported to have embraced the internet and likes to send emails. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Once again, Facebook changed the security settings, making more of your not-so-private information even less private. However, this time they recognized that people weren't pleased and quite quickly changed the setting back. Despite the change, it lends to the seemingly never-ending conversation of Facebook vs. privacy.

The quick version of this new-yet-old story is that Facebook briefly allowed for third-party-apps to access your most personal of information: phone number and address. While you can control what information you share with others (as an example, only my family members and close online friends have access to my cell number on Facebook), Naked Security points out that there is a constant onslaught of "rogue apps" that get people to change their security settings without realizing it. More over, there are bigger security risks than just having your info sold to cold-calling companies. Namely identity theft.

The ability to access users' home addresses will also open up more opportunities for identity theft, combined with the other data that can already be extracted from Facebook users' profiles.

You have to ask yourself - is Facebook putting the safety of its 500+ million users as a top priority with this move?

Especially when you factor in that many teenagers and college students are willingly sharing such personal information without knowledge of the bigger consequences, it really doesn't seem like Facebook is concerning itself with the safety of its members, does it? As parents, we should be teaching our children -- young and old -- not to share such information, but at the same time, our older generations are latching onto the trend of Facebook as well. The tech-savvy members in each family are already inundated with fixing printers, resetting passwords and figuring out how Uncle Lou made his homepage a porn site. How can they also keep up with the constant change to Facebook's privacy settings? Are you going to require Grandma to call you every time she starts playing a new Facebook game?

The truth is that apps are already kind of shady, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out in October. Very popular Facebook apps -- including FarmVille -- were caught giving your identifying information to dozens of Internet tracking and advertising companies... without your knowledge.

The good news is that Facebook was listening -- this time. In a post on the Facebook Development Blog, they stated that the process of sharing -- and not sharing -- isn't all that clear. That's why they have temporarily disabled the feature.

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. We’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.

So, when I say that Facebook listened, I mean that they heard the backlash, freaked out, pulled back and then realized, "Hey, we're still Facebook," and will continue to do what they want, recognizing that we can either accept it or move on. Oh, Facebook. Hopefully the changes they make to this particular feature are vastly improved when they relaunch it, but I won't be holding my breath.

If you're completely uncomfortable with sharing that information, you can go in and delete your phone number and address from your account. CNET gives a step-by-step guide on how to remove your personal contact information from Facebook. You may want to pass this on to the un-tech-savvy people in your life just in case they aren't aware that they're sharing their address with everyone on the web.

Reaction from around the Blogosphere:

What are your thoughts? Do you think Facebook should reinstate the privacy change, even with the tweaks they're considering? Will the constant privacy changes ever stop?

Contributing Editor Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom) blogs at Stop, Drop and Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land. She is a freelance writer and photographer.


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