Facebook's Developers blog, the world's largest social networking company declared "zero tolerance" for data brokers, after a recent Wall St. Journal investigation revealed that some Facebook application developers have been selling Facebook users' information to data brokering firms.On
Facebook has responded to this news by banning the developers engaging in this practice from the site for a period of six months. To regain entry, the companies will have to submit their data practices for an audit to ensure compliance or the ban will remain in effect.
WSJ's investigation, part of a series called "What They Know," has been revealing (in a sometimes overly paranoid fashion) the ins and outs of how your personal information is being gathered by data brokers, bought and sold, and then used for targeting advertising purposes.
In the case of Facebook, WSJ cautioned that "many of the most popular applications... have been transmitting identifying information - in effect, providing access to people's names and, in some cases, their friends' names - to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies." The paper claimed that the issue affected tens of millions of Facebook app users.
Facebook: Fewer Than a Dozen Apps Sold User Info
Facebook, however, downplayed this news, saying that there were actually "fewer than a dozen" application developers found to be selling user information in the form of UIDs (UIDs are user IDs, an identifier which can be used to determine someone's name on Facebook). Facebook noted that most of the developers were small and none were in the top 10 list of Facebook Platform applications.
The company also claimed it has reached an agreement with data broker Rapleaf, which was called out by the Journal for receiving and reselling the Facebook UIDs it collected to a dozen other firms.
Rapleaf "has agreed to delete all UIDs in its possession," says Facebook. "And they have agreed not to conduct any activities on the Facebook Platform (either directly or indirectly) going forward."
Facebook also firmly noted that the company itself "has never sold and will never sell user information."
As far as which apps were banned, Facebook wouldn't say. However, the developers cited by WSJ, including big names like Zynga, LOLApps and Family Tree, appear to be unaffected at this time. (UPDATE: 11/1/2010, 1p.m. Eastern: Inside Facebook is reporting that the following application developers may have been affected: LOLapps, My Friend Web, Mappdev, My Top Fans and Manakki. The first four account for 50 million monthly active users, the site says. Manakki has 2 million monthly active users.)