In the latest revelation in a seemingly never ending stream of
privacy breaches by online companies, we now know that Facebook and
MySpace have been sending consumers’ personal information to advertisers
despite promises that they don’t share such data without consent.
And Google, already scrambling with its own all-hands-on-deck
response to its WiSpy gaffe, is peripherally implicated in the social
networking privacy fiasco. The Internet giant’s DoubleClick and
Yahoo!’s Right Media ad networks were among those on the receiving end
of the ill-gotten data from the social networking sites.
Both companies stress that although they got the information, they
did not use it. But given Google’s WiSpy stumble don’t be surprised if
many folks say, "Really? Why should we believe you?" Remember with WiSpy
the Internet giant first said it wasn’t gathering communications from
WiFi networks, then flip-flopped and admitted it had made a "mistake"
and actually was doing so.
Wall Street Journal broke the social network story Thursday evening
based on research by Harvard Prof. Ben Edelman.
Coincidentally Edelman met over breakfast with my colleague Jamie Court
and me Thursday morning to discuss our mutual concerns about online
privacy and other Internet abuses.
Edelman briefed us on his findings about Facebook and we encouraged
file a letter asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate.
He came back to the Consumer Watchdog office and wrote.
What conclusions can we draw from this string of privacy intrusions?
I ‘d say these constant gaffes demonstrate a Silicon Valley mindset
all too common among computer engineers: Push the envelope; gather as
much data as you can. Don’t ask permission; you can always ask
That may have been excusable when these were cute, cuddly start-ups
in garages and dorm rooms. But those days over. They are now global
It’s time Google and Facebook grew up and started to act
responsibly. Where’s the adult leadership when we need it?