Who owns facebook applications & why do they need to access my private data?
October 9, 2007 4:13 PM   Subscribe

Who owns facebook applications & why do they need to access my private data?

Slightly related to this post on the blue, I was wondering if anybody has any info on who owns the various facebook applications, and what they do with the data, since you need to consent to them accessing your data whenever you add an application.

A benign view is that it's a technical-legal requirement, and that under facebook's terms of service your data is private, so you need to consent to these third parties accessing it, eg in order to share your movie reviews, quiz results or whatever with others.

Another distinct possibility is that these are used for datamining purposes, eg for marketing.

My guess is that the truth might have various facets. Programming a successful facebook app would be a great career advantage for an IT student or budding programmer. On the other hand, with so many people willing to offer up so much personal information, the temptation would be enormous for corporations to get in on the act, especially if they can cross-reference information from various distinct applications.

Cutting short the rambling speculation, does anybody know of any articles or resources that list, discuss or analyse who develops & owns various facebook applications, and what the data is used for?
posted by UbuRoivas to Technology (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
They're owned by the authors which are (usually) not affiliated with Facebook in any way. Even though the applications display through the Facebook interface they're (almost) entirely hosted on separate servers.
posted by purephase at 4:27 PM on October 9, 2007


Possibly helpful
posted by rhizome at 4:38 PM on October 9, 2007


Any Facebook application is indeed owned by the user creating it. Data associated with the functioning of that application is stored off-site (outside of Facebook, exception being Facebook's own applications) and they need access to your information in order to call against your account: name, age, sex, etc. Without basic access to your account, they can't even "install" the app on your account, however you can limit what's accessible through the platform.

The platform access, however, dictates what information people are able to see through your *friends* having added an application. Change privacy settings through the platform here: http://asu.facebook.com/privacy.php?view=platform&tab=all (Change subdomain to reflect yours, naturally.)

See what you're agreeing to when you install an application here.

Cheers.
posted by disillusioned at 4:40 PM on October 9, 2007


Even though the applications display through the Facebook interface they're (almost) entirely hosted on separate servers.

That would pretty much rule out the ambitious student or amateur programmer, who would almost certainly not have the spare & scalable server capacity to deal with a suddenly-popular app, unless they have some super-clever way of milking it for money.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:50 PM on October 9, 2007


by coincidence, this article in today's Sydney Morning Herald is related.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:10 PM on October 9, 2007


Thank you for asking this question, as I've wondered about it, myself. I use few of the external apps, but my friends are constantly sending me "invites" to join. So many of them require you "enter the names of 5 facebook friends!" before you can even use the application. Bah, I say.

I just have this general mistrust of anything which requires me to provide information about others.
posted by squasha at 6:18 PM on October 9, 2007


There are definitely students and amateur programmers developing facebook apps, I've met a few and there are plenty more like them. I'm sure that more traffic than they can handle is a problem they'd like to have, but the truth is, a lot of apps don't require that much horsepower, especially given how cheap hosting is today (yes, I know iLike claims to be running on an assload of servers). In addition, with the right architecture, you can buy computing by the hour and storage by the gig from amazon for less than outrageous prices.

As other people have noted, the privileges you are granting apps are for access to core Facebook data, like who your friends are, the groups you belong to, your profile info, as well as things you've uploaded like photos. The apps are only supposed to cache this info for 24 hours, but, of course, an unscrupulous operator wouldn't care about that, by the time Facebook banned them, they'd be long gone.

I don't know if anything has evolved for data exchange between 3rd party apps owned by separate developers. I imagine there is a lot of ad hoc exchange happening, and probably without transparency to the end user.
posted by Good Brain at 10:10 PM on October 9, 2007


Another distinct possibility is that these are used for datamining purposes, eg for marketing.

This is it. The data behind the Facebook privacy walls is incredibly valuable. I wouldn't be surprised if 50% of the applications created were just a front to access your data.
posted by almostmanda at 9:13 AM on October 10, 2007


Some useful & insightful answers here, thanks!

(I must say, I was kinda surprised that more people didn't respond, considering the exponential way that facebook has taken off, and stories you hear about the CIA providing venture capital money, or part-owning it through front companies, and so on. I expected more people to have an interest or opinion on these things...)
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:30 PM on October 14, 2007


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