Facebook, MySpace and various other social platforms are now under fire after it was revealed that they have been sending user information to advertisers, specifically user profile information when their sites visitors have been logged in and then clicked on an advertiser link.
According to the Wall Street Journal that user information was sent despite assurances from many major social networks that they would not send that type of identifiable data without their users consent.
Usernames and ID numbers can be easily used to obtain personal information (various demographics) about users. Among some of the largest groups to receive this information have been Google and their DoubleClick platform and Yahoo Right Media. Both Google and Yahoo however are claiming that they were not aware they were receiving the extra user information.
Other sites alleged to be part of the personal information transmission to advertisers are LiveJournal, Hi5, Xanga and Digg.
Facebook appears to be the worst offender (no surprise there), they not only sent the profile name for the person clicking on the ad, but also the information for the friends page the visitor was viewing at the time of clicking the ad.
According to Mashable, Yahoo VP of global police Anne Toth released a statement in which she said:
“We prohibit clients from sending personally identifiable information to us. We have told them. ‘We don’t want it. You shouldn’t be sending it to us. If it happens to be there, we are not looking for it.’”
That would be the same Yahoo company that several months ago said it wasn’t their fault if their ad network was one of the worst for spyware, naming publishers as the group of people who should remove ads with potentially negative effects.
If you’re curious to know how your data was being set, The Register says user data for Facebook and MySpace was sent in the form of unencrypted URLs for the visitors profile page, those profiles typically include a username or real name for the visitor.
While both MySpace and Facebook have said in their own privacy policies that they will not send this type of data, they both have loopholes in which they are allowed to send that data with the users consent, a consent that is often left active and hidden in profile settings that can be difficult for users to hunt down.
The Register goes on to state that both sites are working to close those loopholes and secure their users personal information from advertisers. We have no word at this time how other social platforms will follow suit.
For now there’s a simple solution, don’t click on ads when visiting social networks. A boycott of Facebook and MySpace ad clicking is a simple method that if followed by more users may cause them to think twice before violating their own privacy policies.
What do you think about this newest form of privacy invasion from the major social media platforms? Leave us your thoughts.