Why Facebook is selling you out -- and won't stop

Facebook and its developers could bring in as much as $1 billion this year; only a bozo would think that Mark Zuckerberg will give that up to protect the privacy of his users

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Facebook, though, takes it further. Once you log in, the referrer URLs it generates may contain a unique identification number or, if you've opted for a personalized Facebook URL, your name. That gets passed along inside the URL to makers of the Facebook apps you're using, and some of them then sell it to advertisers and online data brokers, who add it to their trove of information about you.

Facebook was quick to say that usage is a violation of its terms of service, and it's shocked -- shocked! -- that anyone would commit such a dastardly deed. Puhleeze. Kudos to the Journal reporters, but I find it hard to believe that a handful of journalists could figure out something that eluded Facebook's throngs of computer science whiz kids.

There's a wonderfully symbiotic relationship between Facebook and its major app developers. Apps make the service much more attractive; indeed, the proliferation of cool add-ons propelled Facebook past also-rans like MySpace. And without Facebook, the developers are in Palookaville. Everybody has an incentive to get along and keep on raking in the bucks.

A billion-dollar business
Those bucks are very big indeed. Facebook is privately held, but it is widely believed to have posted revenue of about $500 million last year. A big chunk of that, maybe as much as $50 million, came from the sale of virtual goods used with various applications. A report in Advertising Age last year estimated that the aggregate Facebook-related revenue for third-party developers was actually larger than that of Facebook itself. Facebook has to be thinking of a way to cash in, perhaps via a revenue-sharing arrangement for the sale of virtual goods.

All in all, the Facebook ecosystem could generate $1 billion this year. You think that the Boy Billionaire is going to mess that up by worrying about your privacy? No way. So the privacy breaches will continue, no matter how shocked the company says it is. And anything you do or post on Facebook, regardless of its privacy settings and policies, will be fair game.

The great thing about capitalism is that it gives consumers lots of choices. If you don't like what Facebook is doing with your data, don't give it up. Maybe there's another service to use, or maybe you could simply give your friends -- the real ones, that is -- a call now and then. If staying on Facebook is important to you, and it certainly has its uses, you'd better face the fact that Zuckerberg's profits take precedence over your privacy.

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Post them here so that all our readers can share them, or reach me at bill.snyder@sbcglobal.net. Follow me on Twitter at BSnyderSF.

This article, "Why Facebook is selling you out -- and won't stop," was originally published by InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at InfoWorld.com.


Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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