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Thoughts on Privacy

May 15, 2008ByCharlie Cheever

As developers, you’re probably curious about the recent initiatives we and other companies in the industry have taken to help you build applications that let users take their information around the web. We wanted to give you a little more information on how we’re thinking about these projects and get your feedback in the forum.

At Facebook, we always look out for the privacy of our users. That’s a key reason users feel safe sharing their information on our site.

We also strive for openness, releasing the first Facebook API for external websites in August 2006, and then opening up the Facebook website itself with the most recent launch of Facebook Platform in May 2007. Last week, we announced Facebook Connect, which enables users to connect their identity, friends, and privacy across the web.

Privacy and openness go hand-in-hand – as we open up, we have to make sure that users always have control of their information, and understand how and where it’s being used. We’ve maintained that trusted environment while opening up Facebook Platform and the social graph to external developers by requiring third-party application developers to treat user information with the same respect we do. All Facebook Platform developers agree to the Developer Terms of Service, which strictly limit the collection, use, and redistribution of user information. We have technology and a team to ensure applications abide by those policies.

We’re excited that our industry partners are taking greater steps toward openness and enabling users to share their information around the web. We hope, though, that we can collectively find a model that allows users to share data while protecting the privacy of our users’ data and ensuring that the user is always in control.

In the past, when we found applications passing user data to another party (for instance, to ad networks for the purpose of targeting), we suspended those applications and worked with those developers to ensure they respect user privacy. Now that Google has launched Friend Connect, we’ve had a chance to evaluate the technology. We’ve found that it redistributes user information from Facebook to other developers without users’ knowledge, which doesn’t respect the privacy standards our users have come to expect and is a violation of our Terms of Service. Just as we’ve been forced to do for other applications that redistribute data in a way users might not expect or understand, we’ve had to suspend Friend Connect’s access to Facebook user information until it comes into compliance. We’ve reached out to Google several times about this issue, and hope to work with them to enable users to share their data exactly when and where they choose.

We think MySpace’s Data Availability, Google Friend Connect, and Facebook Connect can be part of a great movement in the industry to give users a better and safer experience online, while respecting user privacy. We look forward to working with our developer community and everyone else in the industry to help all of our users take their information, and their privacy, with them wherever they go.