How third parties turn your data into cash
The personal information that you willingly (or unwittingly) give to Facebook can be invaluable to its partners, who slice and dice the data to rake in hundreds. We find out just who's looking at and earning from your personal information.
Facebook applications are fun. According to All Facebook, which calls itself the "Unofficial Facebook Resource," the site's Facebook Application Leaderboard of applications with the highest monthly users shows that a variety of games - including Zynga's FarmVille, Texas HoldEm Poker, and Café World - make up more than half of the top 20 applications.
However, fun comes at the cost of privacy.
Once you accept an application on Facebook, it gets an all-access pass to your profile data. The application runs through an iframe (inline frame), a widely used HTML element that lets a site embed its content onto Facebook's site.
As a result, you're sending data directly to the third-party application's servers. Previously that server was required to refresh its Facebook data every 24 hours, but as of the April F8 conference, Facebook did away with that requirement. As a result, the outside parties can store user data for longer periods before refreshing it.
"You've authorised that application to do whatever it wants to do," says Thought Labs' Popp.
Unless you've gone into the 'info accessible though your friends' portion of Facebook's Applications, Games and websites privacy settings, your friends are taking your profile information with them on their farming and gambling adventures - without your knowledge, but in most cases with your tacit consent.
Game applications are big business. For instance, FarmVille maker Zynga is reportedly valued at as much as $4bn. Plus, Facebook just revamped its Insights dashboard, which page owners and application developers can use to obtain data and graphic visualisations about social plug-ins and integrated site content to better understand their return on investment for using Facebook.
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