Facebook, MySpace Send Users' Data To Advertisers

MySpace The Wall Street Journal.

This time, it wasn't just Facebook. The second largest social networking site, MySpace, and other social networks suffered the same privacy loophole that passed along users' names or ID numbers associated with their profile URL to advertising companies.

Specifically, both Facebook and MySpace ads were sending users' URL data to advertisers, as is customary practice for online ads. And usually, advertisers have to untangle a mess of letters and numbers related to a specific site but not associated with an individual.

However, what differentiated Facebook and MySpace and other social networks in this latest privacy case was the fact that their reports contained the URL of the user's profile page, which included their user name. Facebook, MySpace and other social networks simply hadn't bothered to obscure users' names and IDs from the profile URL, which in some cases consisted of users' actual names.

By sending this kind of personally identifiable data, both Facebook and MySpace essentially violated their own privacy policies about sending users' identifying data to advertisers without their knowledge or consent.

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Google's DoubleClick and Yahoo's Right Media were among the advertising companies who had received users' profile information. Neither company said that they were aware that the information had been sent or had used the data in any way, The Wall Street Journal said.

Facebook acknowledged that this data could be used to personally identify users who clicked, not just the profile of the user on whose page an ad appeared. Facebook has since rewritten some of the code and obscured its users' identification after this privacy leak was brought to their attention, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Meanwhile, other ads were designed to just pass URLs on profile pages, however both Facebook and MySpace said that they are working to obscure those as well, due to the fact that the information could potentially be construed as personally identifiable data. And while neither site likely wants that, Facebook especially would prefer to avoid being slapped with yet another privacy scandal.

Facebook's latest privacy revelation comes amid heated backlash from users and lawmakers regarding the social networking giant's privacy policies, which, among other things, have exposed supposedly private profile information and friends' lists on major search engines such as Google and Microsoft's Bing.