Privacy: Available on Facebook for a cost (kinda)

This comment isn’t likely to win me any privacy-friends, but…Facebook’s privacy settings are really pretty good. Yeah, I went there – no other social networking service (that is widely used) has such a granular group of privacy settings. Now, whether you want to say that the setting of these settings is a complicated process, or an onerous, one, or whatever is another issue entirely, and it’s not the issue I want to address right now.

Facebook has what are called ‘applications’, and these delightful little pieces of code let users play mini-games, bother their friends, put up listings of the books, movies, and models that they love at the moment, etc. In essence, they greatly increase “the social” in Facebook’s social networking garden (surely I can refer to “the social” and Facebook given the b0rg’s massive investment in Facebook). What people, such as myself, take issue with concerning these applications is that when my friend adds an application, the developer of the application tends to grab a bunch of my information along with my friend’s. I didn’t agree to have the application installed, and I have no say over whether or not it gets to take some of my information. The cost for my friend to install the application is one that I have to pay.

Facebook has recently announced that they are starting an Application Verification Program. The program’s stated objective is to:

offer extra assurances to help users identify applications they can trust — applications that are secure, respectful and transparent, and have demonstrated commitment to compliance with Platform’s policies. The verification program is a complement to the ongoing policy enforcement we do to keep the Platform ecosystem safe for users and fair for you as developers.

Monkey_bites has found (via techcrunch) that it’s going to cost application developers $375 dollars to get a badge affirming that their application has passed Facebook’s verification program. This is great…save that it just means that applications are meeting the already nebulous terms that must be met to produce an application.

So how does this relate to privacy? Well, it means that verified applications won’t do the really terrible things that non-verified apps might already be doing. The list of things that applications cannot do can be found on Facebook’s wiki, but if you read this list it’s not terribly comforting – I’d rather know that there was, by default, some gatekeeper that was watching applications met the standards for playing in the garden then users being responsible for reporting problems.

Actually no, scratch that.

I’d just be happy if I wasn’t paying for other people installing applications. I guess that if this approach were taken, however, that applications would have to be convincingly good for a widespread number of people to install them, which would almost immediately stop 99.9% of the applications out there from generating revenue from their data mining operations.