Facebook User-Data Gathering Goes Viral

FacebookWhen a company has news that they want buried, they issue their information on a Friday night and hope nobody in the media notices on Monday morning.  Marred in controversy over their Beacon advertising platform, Facebook hoped that their latest attempt to gather more user-data would go unnoticed.

For the most part, it’s worked so far. Developers will now be able to extend their Facebook applications to their own websites by using the formerly-closed JavaScript client library.  Since it does not require any server side code on the developer’s server, they can now create a Facebook application that can be hosted on any Web site that serves static HTML.  The result: putting a Facebook app on a website is now extremely simple.

This means that Facebook’s user-behavior data stream is about to go viral.

As Mashable noted, “Users could now go about the Web, doing your own thing, but still be connected to their Facebook profiles.”

In the quest for more user-data, Facebook has exchanged its exclusivity on its apps for a free flow of cookie-based information.  By using web apps to follow users through cookies, Facebook will be able to collect user data on any site that uses the API.  This isn’t new, but by opening up the JS client library, the number of sites using Facebook apps will grow exponentially.

The timing of the release on their developer’s news page was perfect.  They cannot afford another storm of bad press associated with collecting user data.  Possibly in an effort to “smokescreen” it even more, they preceded the announcement with a “juicier” bit of news earlier that day, a partnership with Amazon Web Services.

Three important things were noted by Nick O’Neill on his unofficial Facebook blog:

  1. “Somehow nobody has seemed to take note of this significant step.”
  2. “Facebook has now implemented the ability to leverage cookies to access a user’s data even when they are not at your application.”
  3. “This is a huge step in Facebook extending their platform beyond the Facebook.com domain and letting people leverage the power of the ‘social graph’.”

The fact that nobody noticed the implications of this big news is by design. They will be better off easing this forward rather than blasting it over the intercom.  The last thing they need is another user data controversy.

John Potter, ZDNet’s chief of development, said in his article, “With this new library, the number of sites, and site owners, that can deploy Facebook applications just increased dramatically.”

If this is true, than Facebook has opened up a humongous hole through which behavioral data will be flying into their databases.

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Leave a Reply


  1. Joey Tyson

    I think this is being way overstated. From what I understand, this library only provides JavaScript access to what PHP and other server-side developers have used for some time. For an application using the new library to access any Facebook data, the user will still have to login to the application, just as web sites accessing the Facebook API do now. The only difference is how the site accesses the API – previously it was only server-side, now it can be done client-side. This is not a cookie-based, automatic login system. This is simply a client-side version of the API technology that’s been in use for months.

  2. JD Rucker

    Absolutely. It definitely isn’t automatic login, but if you’re logged in to your Facebook account at all times, as most users are, the data will be collected. It’s no different than before, except instead of hundreds of sites having the apps, it will be thousands.

  3. ar-lock

    all the facebook apps suck anyways, what are you afraid of that one app will be so good that you will be willingto give up you “profile” information to use it?

    hmmm, why do you think they spend money developing said apps?

    most people still use windows for pete’s sake.
    their computer is already defiling them continually.
    its a naturall progression.

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