Facebook ‘Like’ Plug-in Sparks Privacy Concerns

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Facebook’s new social software tools could help it colonise the web, but pundits are debating the privacy implications

Facebook launched its most ambitious social web effort on 21 April, offering software tools with partners that one analyst said would help Facebook colonise the web.

The three key components of the news were social plug-ins, Open Graph and Graph API. In the 48 hours since CEO Mark Zuckerberg launched the tools at the F8 developer conference, much has been said.

Pundits are debating the privacy implications as well as the power Facebook will wield over the web with its “Like” button on the front and its Open Graph on the back. eWEEK walks through the ramifications of the news here.

1) Do you like the Like button?

More than 75 partners joined Facebook, many of which are offering a “Like” button, the core Facebook social plug-in. Partner Websites such as Yelp install the Like button and users can click on it.

A click indicates interest in a story or other content, which is transmitted to the user’s Facebook page with a link back to, say, IMDB.com. Facebook will populate users’ profiles with this information. But info about this “like” is also sent back to partner websites, and Facebook users can see what the user has liked on those websites.

2) Instant personalisation

Facebook is now offering users the chance to “Connect with your friends on your favorite websites,” such as Yelp, Pandora and Docs.com, the Microsoft FUSE Labs site that lets users share Microsoft Office documents in Facebook.

3) How it works

When you’re logged into Facebook, these sites can personalise your experience using your public Facebook information. When you visit an instantly personalised site, the partner can use your public Facebook information to personalise the experience.

The website will ask for your explicit permission to use any non-public info. Each instant personalisation partner is required to display a blue Facebook notification at the top of its website when you first arrive at the site.

4) What does it look like to a user?

GigaOm’s Liz Gannes described it well: “Instant personalisation means that if you show up to the Internet radio site Pandora for the first time, it will now be able to look directly at your Facebook profile and use public information—name, profile picture, gender and connections, plus anything else you’ve made public—to give you a personalised experience.

“So if I have already publicly stated through my Facebook interests page that I like a musical artist—say, The Talking Heads—the first song I hear when I go to Pandora will be a Talking Heads song or something that Pandora thinks is similar.”

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