Facebook application hawks your personal opinions for cash
Insecure and antisocial networking
Updated A popular Facebook application that promises users privacy in exchange for opinions on their friends is acting as a stooly by offering the information for others to buy.
The "Compare People" (account required) application has become one of the most used services on the Facebook platform since it opened to outside developers in May. It has about 475,000 users - eight percent of Facebook subscribers.
It works by presenting a pair of your friends head-to-head and inviting you to vote on aspects of their tastes, work, personality and looks. Questions include "who is more creative?" and "who would you rather sleep with?".
The sign-up page promises that those being compared will not be able to find out how you rated them. It says: "Your friends cannot find out how you compared them except when it's an innocuous compliment. For example, if someone loses a comparison, they will not know that they lost.
"If you rate/compare someone on a dating question, they won't know how you chose. There is no way for someone to look at the rank lists and see who said what about them."
Developer Ivko Maksimovic has recently begun an attempt to make money from users that appears to ride roughshod over these assurances. For a $9.49 PayPal payment, Compare People's "Premium" service (screengrab) invites you to "Improve yourself" by snooping on how your friends rated you - in what they thought was a secret ballot. Data on offer includes:
- Who are your true friends?: see who has the best opinion of you
- Who are your best references?: see who has the highest professional and academic opinion of you
- Your wins and losses: a question-by-question recounting of exactly who you won and lost to
Maksimovic says the whole thing is a misunderstanding.
"We DO NOT violate anonymity and we DO NOT reveal who voted on you how, even in the premium section," he wrote in the comments section to this story. "There is a wins and losses feature that shows who you won against and who you lost against, but it goes to great pains to NOT show you who did the voting."
Maksimovic says he has suspended new sign ups of the premium service until he figures out a way to clarify exactly what information is given out. "As I said before, no anonymity is being violated, but better safe than sorry," he explains.
Yesterday witnessed an unsightly rash of ponderous stories in the national press about concerns over privacy on Facebook. This was mostly the work of Phil Space and Polly Filler, because the young firm has hired a UK PR agency who held an event on Monday that didn't yield any news. Executives including privacy chief Chris Kelly swatted away collywobbles over targeted advertising and the plan to make profiles googleable.
Compare People, however, is selling private information given over in good faith to make a quick, dirty shilling from people's insecurities.
Facebook has well covered its posterior on third-party developers and will no doubt distance itself from Compare People as soon as users begin to complain about being sold down the river. A disclaimer on application homepages reads: "Facebook is providing links to these applications as a courtesy, and makes no representations regarding the applications or any information related to them. Any questions regarding an application should be directed to the developer." ®
The "bait and switch" was noticed by the Sugarrae blog. Thanks to Reg reader Steve for the tip.
yup..... very true
I removed this app a few days ago, it was when I noticed that I got updates on how people voted about me on things like "Leanne voted you sexier than somebody else in her network" etc. So I went to see why, when I looked at the voting page it says "anonomous" at the top with the voting images and question, but then I noticed after scrolling down it had a checkbox right at the bottom of the page with much smaller writing, and is checked by default EVERY TIME you open the app saying "It is OK to inform this person how I voted"..... well, it's not anonomous then is it?!
The big reason I removed it is because it isn't upfront with what its intentions and how it uses the votes, my wife found out a couple of our close friends liked me (alot)... obviously they didn't realise that adding a comment also added their profile name too (another check box saying "anon"), because they put "snap him up if he wasnt taken.... might anyway" etc etc.... so yeah, thanks to this app it might just have cost me a pretty close friend.... great! lol Ah well.... judging from the comments she's a bit of a stalker anyway! eeek
To the developer, there is no way these features could be accidental - they are hardcoded options hidden at the bottom of a page to advertise your service to the max.... so please dont insult peoples intelligence by claiming it isn't a feature by design!
Only serious add-ons please
"People should only add applications that add real value and as things stand it seems foolish to add a purely frivolous application."
So Facebook per se and other applications of that ilk are not frivolous?
Given the propensity of the modern generation to rever stupidity I would assume that, in this case at least, being the loser would be something to aspire to. However, being head paladin of a bunch of retarded morons is no great cause for celebration.
@I hope this addresses the anonymity issues
It might from your point of view, but given that your company sells private details to unknown third parties without my consent, you're still compromising my private information. If you feel good working for a company that does that, well it's your problem, not mine.