The Wall Street Journal’s findings that Facebook applications share personal and identifiable information with 3rd parties and advertising networks was not surprising though it echoed in the mediashpere and even made some changes coerced the removal of some applications of the popular social network; However, the disturbing part was what Facebook did not do, and that is to remove Zynga, Facebook’s new strategic partner and the developer of the popular game FarmVille.
In brief, the Wall Street Journal’s findings were that most of the popular applications in the social network transmit or convey information to advertising networks and 3rd parties. These activities go against Facebook’s clause 8 to the developer policy that prohibit the transmission of any personal information obtained from Facebook to an advertising network. The prohibition, of course, is not due to worries on your privacy, but because Facebook wants its monopoly over advertising in the network. Following this publication, Facebook removed some applications by the popular developer, LOLapps, who was one of those who conveyed information and restored it after a few hours (see LOLapps release).
But the removal did not inherently cause from conveying information; but as the Inquirer states, the information was passed because of the way the internet was build, where in every click information about the referring page is transmitted, so at least in some of the causes, advertising companies received the information solely because they knew what was the referring page. On the other hand, one can say that by reasonable steps this security breach would have been fixed and therefore allowing reasonable measures to be taken is one part of security.
Up to here there’s nothing new: Facebook removes a certain application because it infringes on your privacy (and Facebook’s ability to monetize by being the exclusive designated advertiser) and ×•four and a half million dollars go down the drain because they solely rely on the Zuckerberg family’s whims, where they determine the laws of the game. However, what needs to be learned is what Facebook did not do, and how it relates to your privacy.
The question why Zynga was not removed from Facebook is the exact signaling for the reason why Facebook removed LOLapps; both applications infringed the same developer agreement and your privacy, however, Zynga signed a commercial agreement with Facebook and uses the Facebook currency as its payment method and promotes Facebook’s business. This was a signaling to other developers: either migrate to Facebook’s services and be a part of the Zuckerberg family’s ecosystem, or find yourselves subject to our whims. Facebook’s commercial dependency on Zynga doesn’t allow Facebook’s interests to remove it; and LOLapps? it can seek its friends elsewhere.