The problem here is not really Facebook. It’s the spammy, obnoxious nature of the apps Facebook has encouraged to breed like bacteria. Let’s take FamilyTree. By itself, it’s not so bad. But literally moments after I installed the app I was shown a pop-up ad urging me to install another app sponsored by Progressive Insurance called Progressive Pets.
Want to avoid installing this app? Avoid the big blue Continue button in the center of the screen and seek out the tiny X in the upper left corner to close the window. Not exactly user friendly.
But wait, we’re not done. At the bottom of the FamilyTree page is an ad for yet another app, only it’s not labeled in any way and it’s designed to look like part of FamilyTree. Click “Continue” (assuming it’s the logical next step to using FamilyTree) and you end up installing an app called ZooWorld, one of the many operated by a company called RockYou.
Deceptive and obnoxious? Yes, but it’s worse than that. RockYou made headlines last December when it (reluctantly) revealed it had been hacked, revealing the names and email addresses of 32 million Facebook and MySpace users foolish enough to install its apps. Turns out that RockYou was storing these user log-ons totally unprotected, in a plain text file on a server attached to the Net. Because, apparently, the people at RockYou are total idiots. They got sued over that smooth move.
RockYou apologized and claims it now follows less brain-dead security procedures. But would you trust them with you data? I wouldn’t. I certainly would not install any of their apps.
The bigger point: Permissions aren’t the problem. Spammy apps run by sleazy companies are the problem. Instead of tossing up more pointless splash screens, Facebook needs to start doing a better job of policing its apps. And maybe they will. Given the pace at which Facebook seems to move, that shouldn’t take more than 4 or 5 years.
ITworld TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan makes a point of avoiding Facebook apps and thinks you should too (but he knows you won’t). Catch his brand of juvenile geek humor at eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter: @tynan_on_tech.