Home Facebook Connect for iPhone: Great, or Yet Another Privacy Threat?

Facebook Connect for iPhone: Great, or Yet Another Privacy Threat?

Facebook today announced Facebook Connect, its proprietary technology which allows the sharing of data between Facebook and third party applications, can now be integrated into iPhone and iPod Touch applications. This new feature will work in much the same way that Facebook Connect has worked for Web pages over the past few months, by providing a one stop shop for login and allowing you to share your data with your Facebook friends.

But the news again brings up the question of whether we should trust this company that seems to continuously place user privacy on the back burner almost every time it announces some new or innovative feature.

The idea of Facebook Connect for iPhone is to solve two problems at once:

  1. Give developers an easy way to socially enable their applications without having to write a whole supporting back-end
  2. To promote the Facebook Connect platform and give iPhone users with Facebook accounts an easy way to share information

While the majority of participating iPhone applications announced today are games – see the full list here – clearly the company expects other mobile platforms and a greater selection of applications for the mobile market to jump on the bandwagon.

But will they – and more importantly, should they?

Apologies Aplenty from Facebook

Last summer, we wrote about the potential dangers of Facebook Connect. At the time, MySpace ruled supreme in the United States but recently, Facebook has taken over. While the turnaround wasn’t really surprising, it may make our point from last year all the more relevant:

“Facebook Connect put the power of the social web into the hands of one company. One private company. Not only that, but a company that’s known for rolling out changes without so much as a warning to its users then having to react to the ensuing uproar.”

The example we used at the time was the much maligned Beacon, the advertising system that sent data from external sites back to Facebook, and its disastrous beginnings with a default opt-out setting, that launched before users were given a way to opt-out.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s response after the debacle: “We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it.”

Zuckerberg again was all about regret in February this year, when he revoked the changes Facebook made to its Terms of Service.

Both examples of backtracking and apologies only came about after a backlash from users.

We also pointed out that it appears Facebook‘s direction has changed somewhat when it comes to privacy, and wrote that it’s still difficult to imagine this is due to the company genuinely caring, and more likely the result that they’ve learned to cater to users’ demands.

“Facebook has always known that their value – that is, their monetary value – is selling off bits and pieces of your privacy to advertisers. The “real you” on Facebook is a holy grail for marketers.”

With that in mind, what will become of the new Facebook Connect for iPhone service? While no doubt it will be useful to many of Facebook’s 175 million users, the question remains: Should we trust in Facebook as it figures out how to cash in on the power of the mobile Web?

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