Facebook Offers You An Invisibility Cloak For Apps, Because Mark Zuckerberg Is All Touchy-Feely & 'People Come First' Now
Have you read your Facebook privacy agreement lately? Well, neither have we. But the social media giant just made a big change that makes the 13 page, 5400-word agreement act just a bit more in your favor. On Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that when users use Facebook to log into apps, they'll have the ability to decide what bits of information they share, as well as the option of logging into the apps anonymously. Zuckerberg made his commitment to the safety and privacy of Facebook users clear in his keynote address, saying “We serve a lot of different communities, but one is by far the most important: the people that use our products.” Awww.
While Facebook has certainly run into controversy before about its privacy settings, with reports of how Facebook is able to track both your online and offline activity raising hairs on the backs of everybody's necks, the company is certainly trying to revamp its image as a user-first platform. Said Zuckerberg, “It’s important that in every single thing we do, we put people first.” Mark, stop it, you'll make us cry.
Of course, the news that you now have the ability to control how much information third-party apps and companies see begs the question: how much could they see before? Previously, according to the Wall Street Journal, those who currently use Facebook to log into their apps are giving up plenty of information, "including their email addresses, their friend lists and other personal data."
But don't get too comfortable just yet. Mark Wilson at FastCompany explains that while the app may not be able to see you, Facebook can. Moreover, if you use Anonymous Login to download an app in order to try it out, you still have to provide your information afterwards if you decide you like it. So your anonymity really only lasts for a little while.
And considering Facebook still has access to your information, it seems a little unclear as to how helpful temporarily barring third parties from accessing your data will be. Facebook logins are so valuable because they allow the company to collect information like "shopping preferences, browsing habits, and mobile app use." This information is then used for targeted ads, which is why your Facebook page mysteriously knows what it is that you were just looking to buy on Amazon.
This generates a huge amount of revenue for Facebook, who reported last week that their first-quarter ad revenue was up 82 percent from last year at $2.3 billion.
While some app developers worry that having access to less user information might be detrimental to their product, Facebook insists that having user trust is of paramount importance, and could actually encourage more people to log in. Eddie O’Neil, a Facebook product manager, told the Wall Street Journal that developers should "understand giving their users transparency is super important."
That being said, transparency isn't exactly the term that comes to mind when considering Facebook privacy policies, and it's even confusing the infallible Supreme Court justices. Chief Justice John Roberts, for one, believes that anything on Facebook is fair game, saying "it's certainly not private in the sense that many of the other applications are." Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are tangentially involved in the current SCOTUS hearings about warantless searches of mobile devices. While cell phones, particularly smart phones, have been used by authorities to track down illegal activity, some argue that accessing an individual's mobile device without a warrant infringes upon their rights.
But when it comes to Facebook, Roberts believes that information is "specifically designed to be made public." According to Roberts, there is not "any privacy interest" in Facebook, and if there is, it will be "diminished because the point is you want these things to be public and seen widely." Roberts went on to say that apps like Facebook "don't have an air of privacy about them." Wonder what Justice Roberts' Facebook looks like.
With Anonymous Login, we, as well as app developers, will never know.