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Quiz Facebook: Will We Have Control over Our Own Information?

Chris Conley,
Policy Attorney,
ACLU of Northern California Technology and Civil Liberties Project
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August 27, 2009

Today, in response to an inquiry by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Facebook announced plans to enhance user privacy over the next year. Some of these plans address third party applications, like quizzes and games, that have access to a lot of your personal information.

Wondering what this is all about? Concerned about your privacy on Facebook?

If you’re a Facebook user, check out the ACLU of Northern California's very own quiz. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at all the personal details a Facebook app can collect about you and your friends – and some steps you can take to keep your private information from landing in the wrong hands (including changing your own privacy settings)!

(And, yes, we know it's a little weird to warn you about Facebook quizzes by asking you to take a Facebook quiz – but at least you know who we are and that we are committed to living up to our privacy policy, unlike many quiz authors who haven't posted a privacy policy at all!)

Today’s Facebook Quizzes Get a Failing Grade for Privacy

Even if your Facebook profile is "private," when you take a quiz, an unknown quiz developer could be getting access to almost everything in your profile: your religious views, sexual orientation, political affiliation, pictures, and groups. Facebook quizzes also have access to most of the info on your friends’ profiles. This means that if your friend takes a quiz, they could be giving away your personal information too. (But, again, don’t just take our word for it: take our quiz and see for yourself!)

And Facebook’s current restrictions on the collection and use of personal information by applications are simply inadequate. Although Facebook’s Terms of Service require that applications limit the collection and use of information, enforcing terms like these is really difficult. That means that random developers who choose to ignore the Terms of Service could potentially sweep up vast amount of personal information about you and your friends – and once they’ve collected it, they could easily sell it, share it, or even turn it over to the government. This is a major privacy hole, and Facebook needs to take stronger steps to address this problem than just writing a sentence in a rarely-read document.

Facebook Responds – But We Still Need Your Help

In response to the Privacy Commissioner’s investigation, Facebook has committed to taking several steps to improve user privacy. As part of these changes, Facebook needs to ensure that users are truly in control of their own information. That means changing the default privacy settings so that each user, and not that user’s friends, can decide whether to share her information with a third-party application.

That's where you come in. Learn what you can do to protect yourself right now - and help us pressure Facebook to make meaningful changes in the coming months!

Don't let Facebook's default settings force you to silently pay with your privacy when you – or your friends – use Facebook. Demand that Facebook upgrade its privacy controls to give you control of your personal info. Demand Your dotRights!

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