Privacy issues? Google engineers leaving Facebook in droves

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What could be better than watching MLB games on your PS3?

Well I bet they didn’t quite expect that. In the wake of Facebook’s F8 conference this week, where it apparently bid to become the new Sheriff of the Internet, Facebook’s plans to effectively put ‘social’ into the very structure of the Web has a few people a little concerned.

The main issue is that there are concerns that Facebook, by default, now opts you in to allowing third party sites like Yelp to ‘personalise’ your experience, and there are questions about how much information is given away.

The result is that lots of geeks are considering leaving Facebook, and perhaps even more interestingly, veritable droves of Google software engineers are among them. This includes Matt Cutts, head of the webspam team at Google (see below) who has not technically left, but has deactivated his Facebook account.

Admittedly, there’s probably not a lot of love lost between Facebook and Google right now, but it is certainly fascinating to watch these Facebook departures from people who are early adopters, and deeply savvy about the Web.

UK-based Buzz search engine Buzzzy has picked the following up, and we reproduce some examples of this mass exodus below.











  • Harold Ramis

    Sour grapes.

    • Spammy McGee

      Sour grapes? Not at all. Some people put a high value on their privacy and Facebook will lose those people as users. I doubt it will put much of a dent in FB’s user numbers as an overwhelming amount of their users don’t bother keeping up with changes in FB privacy policy.

      • teco221

        Google and privacy don’t go together. I stop using Google because they record everything you do on the internet. A good example about invasion of privacy, now they don’t like Facebook becaue they feel they don’t have privacy? That’s just funny.

      • Kiran

        See the thing is most if not all web sites record each and every thing done by each and every user. Its what they do with such data that is important. Google might run some anonymous algorithms to show u ads, but they wont go out and sell ur information with ur name next to it to get more behavioral ads. Which is exactly what facebook is doing now, and eventually in 2 or 3 years from now everything you do on the internet while logged into facebook will show up on ur newsfeed and by default on the screen of every marketer and then u will see the true impact of the privacy intrusion.

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      • Joe

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      • streetlogics

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    • mos

      People being upset about Facebook intentionally silently allowing your private info to be shared without you knowing it is somehow an invalid feeling just because buzz inadvertently released names of frequent contacts?

      That has nothing to do with the actual issue at hand.

  • Josh B

    There weren’t early adopters of sites like Facebook anyway.

    • yo fanny

      beware the snowball effect

      • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk Murat

        yeah my auntie, best mates, people I play football with are all gonna leave now that a Google engineer has gone. Newsflash: none of them give a shit, they probably won’t even know about the fucking open graph stuff

      • tye jacobs

        Wait until one of them go for job- private, govt or ask for a loan and background check pulls up something on FB? It’s one thing to speak your mind with your mates and then there is another issue when you have to be PC to have or hold a position.

        Do I choose a difference of what I share with my family then friends then biz then the entire world? You bet your ass I do- and don’t say you don’t.

      • tye jacobs

        My options should be my choice, NOT for FB to decide. Basically, FB chooses anything of yours they want to share- it is not your option. I am sure even if you opt out there is some measure of sharing and we would never know- that’s right, it is the Internet. How the hell would anyone know what is or is not shared by FB? Nobody!

        Future? FB starts to become fragmented and looses loyalty- that’s OK, others will pick up the lost trust, gain local trust with strict rules now that FB is out of the closet.

  • Steven

    I like Facebook Connect, and the two-step connection required (that I permit for only my most trusted, useful sites, like Vimeo, and Posterous), but I don’t like the sound of this new development.

    I’m a bit confused about how the 3rd-party sites detect your Facebook account – do you need to be logged-in at the time you visit them, or do you just need to have logged-in at some time in the past which is then detected (via your cookies/browser cache?) by the other site…?

    • http://natts.com Dave Nattriss

      Steven: unfortunately the second paragraph of this post is pretty misleading about the new social plug-ins that Facebook has introduced.

      “The main issue is that there are concerns that Facebook, by default, now opts you in to allowing third party sites like Yelp to ‘personalise’ your experience”

      In fact, the third party sites don’t personalise your experience at all – that’s what Facebook does for them, whilst you’re on those sites, using the magic of IFRAMEs.

      When a site adds one of the new ‘Instant personlization’ widgets, a.k.a. Facebook’s social plug-ins, a piece of code called an IFRAME is used, which is basically a whole web page that is called within another web page, and the IFRAME can come from a different web site. So if I’m looking at a movie page on IMDb, there is an IFRAME within the page that is actually a tiny Facebook page. When this is requested from Facebook, the URL of the movie page that I’m on is given to Facebook, and then it returns in the IFRAME the number of Facebook users that it knows like the page and which if any are my friends. At no point does IMDb know who I am or which of my friends also like the page.

      If I opt out of the ‘Instant Personalization’ – a new setting in the Facebook privacy controls, the IFRAME simply won’t tell me personal data about the page concerning me – i.e. it won’t tell me if I or my friends already like it. However, if I have set my Facebook privacy controls to allow my ‘likes’ to be publicly shared, it will still tell my friends if they are looking at a page that I have publicly liked. But the owner of the page – IMDb or whoever – still doesn’t get to know that I liked their page, just that an anonymous someone did (i.e. another number on the total), assuming that my likes are public.

      So if you opt out of this new ‘Instant Personalization’ feature, Facebook is correct when it says “your friends may still share public Facebook information about you to personalize their experience on these partner sites unless you block the application”, the ‘their’ being the important word, and to be honest what’s so bad about my friends knowing that I publicly liked a page that they’re visiting?! They are my friends! I publicly liked the page!

      You can opt out this functionality on particular sites if you really want to, by blocking their apps in the usual way, but why are you bothering to publicly like pages on those sites in the first place if you don’t anyone else to know about your action?!

      All Facebook have done is given users a way to see their friends existing Facebook activity (such as liking a page) on the sites that the activity relates to. All the existing privacy settings remain in place.

      • http://www.barker.dj dan barker

        hi, Dave,

        the ‘like’ button works through an iframe – exactly as you say. but aside from that, facebook have partnered with a few sites (eg. pandora, yelp) where they actively share your likes with the partner (ie, some of your data goes outside the walled garden of facebook/a facebook iframe).

        i think this confused a lot of people, as it was tacked onto the very end of the f8 keynote as almost a “oh… by the way” comment.

        dan

      • COP

        WRONG!

        Try FireBug on Yelp – your name, location etc is being passed to a Javascript running on Yelp.com – now I didn’t give ANY permission to YELP to get my data.

        this is total BS!

      • http://natts.com Dave Nattriss

        Sorry but that’s called cross-site scripting and browsers don’t allow it.

      • Steven

        @Dave Nattriss – Thanks for the clear explanation. It sounds less alarming after your clarification, and I’ll give it a try over the coming weeks. I’m still displeased with Facebook in general, though, for constantly trying to pull the rug from under users’ feet with each and every new development – and ‘switched on by default’ is plain exploitative of people.

      • http://natts.com Dave Nattriss

        Sorry but I don’t agree – sharing information with people that you’ve already opted in to share information with (i.e. your friends) is not pulling the rug at all.

      • tye jacobs

        @ Dave- Obviously you know a hell of a lot more than many of us but have to ask? Have you ever wanted one friend to know something and not everyone? Wouldn’t it be great if that were your option and not FB’s?

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  • Jamie Walsh

    Go to Account > Privacy Settings > Applications and Websites and uncheck “Allow”. Jmie Walsh

    • Sanjay

      Yeah, maybe that should be OPT-IN!

      • Soren

        Opt-In is bad for innovation — if you require any new feature to be an opt-in then the adoption process is back 5 years, climbing the curve all over again.

      • craig

        There’s innovation, and then there’s invasion.

        Many of my non-technical facebook friends, whom have never been prone to overreacting about happenings on the internet or facebook, are posting pretty angry comments about this “feature” and how to disable it.

        I believe Mr. Zuckerberg has grossly misjudged the general public’s feelings about “the default is social”. That’s going to be a quote of the year right there…

      • Have Not Opted In to Facebook

        Setting good defaults with opt-out is good for innovation and helping users do the right thing. Suddenly changing core assumptions that users rely on might be innovative, but it’s not very nice.

        Suppose the government decided that transparent society is, on the whole, better and so most income tax records should be public. They set up a website and anyone can go there and opt out of having their tax return public. People would be rightly pissed, because a core assumption about who knows what have been violated.

        If, on the other hand, everybody’s income tax records were public from day 1 of the income tax system, a new website with tax record queries wouldn’t be a big deal because everyone would have been operating all along with the knowledge that their taxes aren’t a private matter.

        This is why nobody gets upset about how public information is on Twitter: Everyone who uses it knows it’s all public, so there’s no surprise. (I’d still feel weirded out if I visited Yelp and, without any action from me, it populated a bunch of data from the twits I follow.)

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      • http://www.twitter.com/MacSmiley MacSmiley

        @Have Not Opted In to Facebook

        AMEN!

        Making Instant Personalization Opt-IN would be a ethical. Zuckerberg and company are far from ethical.

        The proof? Just look at how hard Facebook has made it for the average user to opt-OUT!!

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  • http://twitter.com/JonWorrel Jon Worrel

    Will the mass consensus of the World Wide Web not learn that privacy is a dying concept? We’re in the generation of the 2010s, a new decade is on the horizon before us.

    Rather than taking the fast route and “opting out” of the Facebook platform and framework, let’s take an active stance and right its wrongs. Web developers, journalists, social media activists and even the general consumers have a very powerful potential aggregate voice when combating the mistreatments of internet protocol.

    Why don’t we stop the cowardliness behind those oversized LED-backlit displays and take an active-aggressive stance against our privacy concerns? I know I’m going to do something about this. Why don’t you?

    • Spammy McGee

      Perhaps people don’t care enough about Facebook to waste their time righting their wrongs. I’m more concerned about my local butcher shop staying open than I am FB.

    • Zoe

      What are you ganna do? Start a Facebook group? That the majority of planet earth who aren’t on facebook will never see?

  • http://www.tom.de/blog/2010/04/matt-cutts-leaving-google-nope-facebook/ Matt Cutts leaving Google - nope Facebook | Tom.de News

    […] at Google Inc. – head of the webspam team ) is closing down his facebook account according to Techcrunch just right after the famous #f8 Developper conference this week held […]

  • Mleb

    Who cares… Really… Unless ur tryin to be president…

    • tye jacobs

      @Mleb- you might want to become president or whatever level of respected position. However, at some point in time wouldn’t it be shitty if the ‘one time’ you were out partying and someone caught you in your ‘entire life’ on camera and put it on FB- That ended your options with claim to shame?

      You are probably young- very smart- can be anything you want but FB will take and keep your entire life’s history- it is a digital record they control, forever and can share as they see fit. That one time of possible indiscretion will be ‘theirs’, not yours forever!

  • http://www.spirofrog.de Thomas

    I am sure there will be a data security discussion soon on facebook usage

  • Gregory Magarshak

    Everyone who is leaving, message me and let’s work together on a new social network :)

    http://magarshak.com

  • http://f055.net f055

    Oh come on, grow up. You don’t have to share your address, phone and intimate personal info – it’s your choice, FB can’t read your mind. You can opt out of all of this. (mine was unchecked by default from some reason anyway). Why lament instead of exploit the new possibilities? Also, why not to log out of your Facebook when leaving the site? This way, you’re not going to be tracked no matter what you do.. (ok, tracking cookies might need to be deleted too, but how hard is that given your level of privacy paranoia?)

    Don’t act like The Sun, don’t make a fuss where it’s not there. Plus, what’s the Google team got to do with anything? After their Buzz privacy fail they are the last to talk… That was a huge issue, this is rather minor.

    • http://synthesis.williamgunn.org Mr. Gunn

      It is a big deal. With this feature, unless you take steps to stop it, FB is giving your information, and the information of your friends, to any site that becomes a partner. Right now it’s just Pandora and Yelp and Docs.com, but new sites will be added to this program and you have to specifically go to that site’s page on FB and block them, for every site that signs up.

      Still don’t think it’s a big deal? What if it was Wellpoint.com or another insurer who’s looking to raise the rates on or drop people whose friends drink too much?

      Isn’t it enough to say that it’s evil to just foist this on everyone without asking if they want to have their info shared in this way?

      If you look, all the senior web geeks have taken a stance against this.

      • tye jacobs

        @Mr. gunn- you are 110% correct- there is nothing, yet in an insurance policy to ask about your FB or other online activity but we know it is coming.

        Too many party pics, smoking, imagine the profile that can be built if they paid FB for years of digital history to be reviewed- is it the consumer’s or FB’s now?

      • tye jacobs

        Dare I say that “ALL” your health information will soon be kept if by the Govt if you DO NOT pay for private insurance?

        By the way, I never heard about the absolute minimum insurance that every US citizen will have to keep?

    • http://www.seven-sigma.com/ Jeff Dickey

      Actually, “grown-up supervision” is exactly what Facebook lacks. The technical term for what they’ve been doing, on a continual basis is “breach of contract.” You know, that EULA you clicked ‘Agree’ to when you joined FB, that said “we won’t divulge (this set of info) to anybody without your express active consent”? Now, they’re retroactively reneging on that — and making it impossible (or nearly so) for you to remove the affected formerly-private information. In a sane world, that would be grounds for a RICO investigation, and conviction.

  • http://blog.punchbarrel.com/2010/04/23/time-to-opt-out-of-facebook-sharing-your-details/ Frank Carver's Punch Barrel / Time to opt out of facebook sharing your details

    […] Privacy issues? Google engineers leaving Facebook in droves. […]

  • MK

    This is hilarious, particularly after the whole Google Buzz debacle.

    • mos

      what does that have to do with it? how severely were you affected by buzz anyway?

  • http://netzwertig.com/2010/04/23/facebook-die-geister-die-es-rief/ Facebook: Die Geister, die es rief » netzwertig.com

    […] Matt Cutts es einigen seiner Kollegen gleichgetan und laut eigener Aussage auf Twitter sein Facebook-Konto deaktiviert. Das darf angesichts des zunehmenden Konkurrenzkampfs zwischen den beiden Unternehmen zwar nicht […]

  • http://borasky-research.net M. Edward (Ed) Borasky

    I decided to leave Facebook after F8 for a variety of reasons. My own privacy was certainly part of it, but the last straw was really their new terms of service for developers:

    http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/facebook_data_privacy_so_much_has_changed_in_two_y.php

    “You must give users control over their data by posting a privacy policy that explains what data you collect, and how you will use, store, and/or transfer their data….You may cache data you receive from the Facebook API in order to improve your application’s user experience, but you should try to keep the data up to date…You will delete all data you receive from us concerning a user if the user asks you to do so, and will provide a mechanism for users to make such a request.”

    In other words, a huge business, Facebook, has just shifted its privacy burden onto developers, large or small! That’s unacceptable! I wouldn’t waste the effort learning the API given that requirement.

    • Brad

      Are you serious? All this is saying is that you must provide a way for users to delete their account. This is simple CRUD programming, if you can’t handle offering your users an option to delete their account, you shouldn’t be building websites. Glad to see people like this leaving the platform, you never contributed anything useful anyways. Go build a Google Gadget or something.

    • Have Not Opted In to Facebook

      “You must give users control over their data by posting a privacy policy that explains what data you collect, and how you will use, store, and/or transfer their data”

      It’d be great if Facebook’s privacy policy stated, in a non-vague way, what data they collect and how they will use it. When did they add “We’ll send your data to third party sites your friends visit without any further action on your part?”

    • Paul

      Screw the developers. There’s a million crap apps as it is. Enough is enough.

    • Paul

      I think people are missing the point. Yeah are few googs are leaving so what. Doesn’t anyone care about FBs sneaky tactics. A lot of people are going to have stuff strewn all over the web without even realizing. The friends of friends thing scares me. How do I know where my friends go on the web. If one of my friends is a closet kkk member for example, that’s his business but I wouldn’t want my details associated with their website every time he visits it.

      • Paul

        Sorry wasn’t replying. This post was mean to be in the general thread sorry.

    • Mike

      This is called CYA.

  • ArseneKarl

    Pot just realized kettle is black?!

    Shocking!

  • http://www.jp-fritz.com jpf

    Just wondering : what happens if your privacy settings are high, like only allowing your data for friends and not “friends of friends” ? Would the third party sites still access them ?
    Do any of you know if there is going to be a way to opt out from the “sharing with the entire web” option ?

  • Rob

    this is a story? some google nerds deactivated their accounts?! yay. why not just disable the option ?

    if google was smart enough to pull off the sh*t facebook is doing they’re do it too.

  • http://www.aqumin.com/ Austin

    There are two things going on here:

    1. An iFrame on sites that points to Facebook. The iframe request is data loaded so it knows where the user came from. Facebook shows activity and friends that have interacted with the site but the data IS NOT shared. You have to be logged into facebook for it to work. It LOOKs like it is on that site but it isn’t. It is a little window into facebook on a different page.

    2. Applications can ask users for access to their data through the service formerly known as ‘connect’. Each and every user has to agree to share the data. If you don’t want to share then don’t use the App.

    Facebook isn’t doing anything differently then they did before, it is just easier and more integrated.

  • http://padalecki.net/?p=11 Privacy issues? Google engineers leaving Facebook in droves – Sondra Padalecki Bla Bla Bla Blog

    […] via eu.techcrunch.com […]

  • http://www.greenstreet.net PaulH

    @f055 – thing is, for some reason, people DO share all their personal info on Facebook, especially younger people. I am sure they assume that anything you ‘log in to’ with a username and password is relatively private by default. I wonder how many people keep track of FB’s changing privacy policies.

    Also – the title of this post was better on Techcrunch US!

  • http://blogs.technet.com/kevinremde Kevin Remde

    I’m thinking the “privacy” issue is a smokescreen, giving Google the opportunity to tell their people to leave Facebook now that Facebook is more strongly linked to Microsoft and the new http://docs.com hosting and sharing of online Office 2010 documents that was announced, oh, just a little bit before the “mass exodus” started.

    Just a guess,
    Kevin

    **Disclaimer: I work for Microsoft, but my opinion here does not reflect the views or opinions of the Microsoft Corporation.

  • http://miaankarvall.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/bojkottar-googlefolket-facebook-nu/ Bojkottar googlefolket Facebook nu? « Signerat… //M.A.

    […] googlefolket Facebook nu? http://eu.techcrunch.com/2010/04/23/privacy-issues-google-engineers-leaving-facebook-in-droves/ Matt Cutts deaktiverar sitt Facebook-konto och fler […]

  • http://www.jqueryin.com Corey Ballou

    Here’s a quick one for all you techies out there. The Facebook URL to restrict access for these third party companies is:

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/settings/?tab=privacy&section=applications&field=instant_personalization

    • Sanjay

      Yeah, I did that…. but then you get this nugget of info:

      “…Please keep in mind that if you opt out, your friends may still share public Facebook information about you to personalize their experience on these partner sites unless you block the application.”

      Basically, there is no way to opt-out completely. What BS!

      • http://synthesis.williamgunn.org Mr. Gunn

        If you go to the App’s page on FB and block it, it will stop it from getting your info via your friends, but you have to do this for each and every site that joins. You also have to never click the like button on a site, whether or not you’re logged in, and hope that no one figures out how to trick people into clicking the button, like putting a misleading overlay on the button or something. Why would a site do this? To spam your activity feed, of course.

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  • http://rebrand3d.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/facebook-fiasco/ Facebook Fiasco « RebrandED

    […] Facebook Fiasco Lots of news going around this morning about Zuckerman’s proposal at F8 for Facebook to make the web one giant social network all linked with Facebook and sharing your personal information and that of your friends. Clicking on LIKE may be more telling than you want it to be. Apparently scores of Google engineers are jumping ship and deactivating their Facebook accounts in protest. Check out the story at TechCrunch. […]

  • http://rebrand3d.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/facebook-fiasco-2/ Facebook Fiasco « RebrandED

    […] Facebook Fiasco Lots of news going around this morning about Zuckerman’s proposal at F8 for Facebook to make the web one giant social network all linked with Facebook and sharing your personal information and that of your friends. Clicking on LIKE may be more telling than you want it to be. Apparently scores of Google engineers are jumping ship and deactivating their Facebook accounts in protest. Check out the story at TechCrunch. […]

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