THE BLOG
06/26/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Who Told Facebook They Could Go Through My Purse?

Who told Facebook that their friends could go through my purse when I'm shopping and make a copy of my address book? And that they could check out my photos, look to see how old I am, how many kids I have and what kind of pets I have? It wasn't me, and I'm pretty ticked about it.

Facebook business partners may not be physically opening my handbag, but they are doing that and more in the online world. As part of their new "Open Graph" malarkey, Facebook has decided to share my information with whomever they please, without my permission! And they don't bother telling me how I can get them to stop.

To me, this is the worst of bad business practices.

Nathanial Perez, the director of social marketing at SapientNitro said about Facebook in an article in Adweek

They've really tested the limits of their boundaries and where they can go. This comes at a time when people's behavior has evolved. It changes people's notions of privacy.

Sorry, pal, it doesn't change my notion of privacy at all. It changes my trust in companies who tell me that my information is private and protected. Hmm, it must be safe in some alternate universe because it ain't protected here!

And look how excited the folks from Levi's are to get all that juicy information about us:

It will also give Levi's (and Facebook) a treasure trove of customer-preference information. It'll know the demos of those who like super skinny jeans, or whether black jeans are favored in the West by customers in their 30s. That data can easily be used to tailor the site experience.

Or use that information for other purposes, some that we may not have even considered yet. Because guess what? They can keep that information for... forever: "One of the important elements of Open Graph is that it allows developers to keep Facebook user data for longer than the previous limit of 24 hours."

British crime author David Hewson is so upset over the issue that he has deleted his personal Facebook account and his fan page. He blogs about the reason why here.

In his blog he cites an article in which Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart says:

I'm very concerned about these changes. More than half a million developers will have access to this data. The information will be stored indefinitely and it opens the possibility that a lot of people can be blackmailed from all corners of the world.

She goes on to say, "Making unlimited wealth is not a reason for doing away with privacy. The rest of the world's citizens are not comfortable with this."

Are you?

No matter how much they promise, no matter what they say, online websites can't seem to keep our information safe. Just yesterday I got an email inviting me to purchase a male dysfunction drug at 80% off from Serious Skin Care. I know they didn't send it to me. Yet they promised to keep my email private. So even if these companies say they will only use our information for optimizing our shopping experience, do we really know it won't get used for something else?

In the Adweek article Ian Schafer, the CEO of Deep Focus, compares Facebook to Skynet, the computer network in The Terminator: "It results in Facebook becoming... all-knowing."

That scares the holy crap out of me.

(Here is how to disallow the sharing of information with Facebook partners:
Go to Account > Privacy Settings > Applications and Websites and uncheck "Allow" next to "Instant Personalization"
)

Pam Atherton is an award-winning journalist who hosts the online radio show A Closer Look. Find out more at www.PamAtherton.com