The FTC Explores the "App-Gap"

Jan 27, 2010
Nicole A. Ozer

Page Media

ACLU of Northern CA

We've already blogged generally about the Federal Trade Commission's "Exploring Privacy" roundtable, and asked you to sign onto the ACLU of Northern California's petition demanding more transparency about when and why companies share our information with the government and others. In this blog post we're going to focus on the privacy implications of social networking sites and the ways that third parties can access users' information without their knowledge or explicit consent.

Online social networking is one of the fastest growing activities on the Internet. Hundreds of millions of Americans use sites like Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn to connect and network with others.

But many users don't realize that once this information is posted on social networking sites like Facebook, it can end up in the hands of third parties. Our Facebook quiz gave you a behind the scenes look at how your personal information can be accessed by a quiz developer- even if you think your profile is "private" and even if it's a friend who takes the quiz. Facebook users were shocked when they learned how easily their information could be accessed by applications, and more than 49,000 people have signed the petition demanding that Facebook fix the "app gap" by changing its default settings and giving users the ability to control if and when applications can access their own personal information.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken notice, and social networking will be the focus of one of the panels at its second Privacy Roundtable being held in California on Thursday. The ACLU will be there, presenting on the social networking panel and expressing our continued concern about Facebook's "app-gap" and other privacy issues related to third party applications and social networking sites. (You can listen to the webcast of Thursday's Privacy Roundtable or submit a comment to the FTC here).

But we need your help to pressure the FTC and social networking companies to address these problems and better protect our personal information from potential misuse. If you haven't already done so, please sign our petition and demand to know more about how and why companies disclose your information without your knowledge or consent. And if you have done so, please ask a friend to do so!

For tips on how to protect your privacy on Facebook and other social networking sites, visit!