Facebook isn't the only passenger on the leaky boat of privacy: Numerous popular apps and games on MySpace have also been sending user data to online advertisers.
It came out a couple of weeks ago that several popular Facebook games and apps, including the Zynga monster FarmVille, were leaking identifiable user data to online advertisers and data trackers. "Tens of millions" of Facebook users were affected by the breach, although interest in the problem seemed limited to those with a good degree of anti-Facebook rancor to start with. But it turns out that Facebook isn't alone.
Much like Facebook, unique user ID numbers linked to individual MySpace pages are being sent to advertisers by external apps, including the virtual gardening game GreenSpot and RockYou's Super Pets, which has 6.1 million users. The unauthorized data sharing is a violation of policy and a representative said MySpace is taking "appropriate action" as a result, but in some cases the leaks weren't even known to the companies who created the apps in the first place. A RockYou spokeswoman said the information leaking from its software was actually being sent by a third company, without its knowledge.
"We have taken immediate action to indefinitely suspend their services in connection with RockYou and we are reviewing all third-party providers to ensure compliance with our platform partners' terms of service," she said.
The Wall Street Journal said the MySpace leak could be "more limited" than Facebook's because it allows its members to use "screen names" rather than their real names. Facebook also requires its users to make their gender and country public, and of course it has a much greater number of users. Nonetheless, it highlights a very simple truth about life online: Now more than ever, privacy is the responsibility of the individual, and relying on policies and corporate benevolence to protect it is one of the quickest ways to kiss it goodbye.