Feeds

Facebook application hawks your personal opinions for cash

Insecure and antisocial networking

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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." ®

Bootnote

The "bait and switch" was noticed by the Sugarrae blog. Thanks to Reg reader Steve for the tip.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft on the Threshold of a new name for Windows next week
Rebranded OS reportedly set to be flung open by Redmond
Business is back, baby! Hasta la VISTA, Win 8... Oh, yeah, Windows 9
Forget touchscreen millennials, Microsoft goes for mouse crowd
Apple: SO sorry for the iOS 8.0.1 UPDATE BUNGLE HORROR
Apple kills 'upgrade'. Hey, Microsoft. You sure you want to be like these guys?
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
ARM gives Internet of Things a piece of its mind – the Cortex-M7
32-bit core packs some DSP for VIP IoT CPU LOL
Lotus Notes inventor Ozzie invents app to talk to people on your phone
Imagine that. Startup floats with voice collab app for Win iPhone
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.