CookieLaw Blog April 5, 2013

Facebook Home Raises Privacy Concerns

Yesterday Facebook announced a major new development that has almost immediately been faced with criticism about its implications for privacy.

Facebook Home is essentially ‘take over’ software for Android powered smart phones.  Much more than an app, or even a series of apps, once installed its aim is to become, in Mark Zuckerberg’s own word ‘the soul of your phone’.

Facebook Home will be the first thing you see when you switch your phone on, and it will provide you with news feeds and information about your friends.  It will shortly be released and then will update regularly, with much speculation that it will effectively take over many or the phone’s main functions, becoming more and more like an operating system.

It also means that Home will have access to almost anything you do on your phone.  It will be always on, so it will also know where you are at any time.  It will be incredibly easy then for Facebook to figure out where you live and work.  The GPS coordinates of where you phone is every night can be easily transformed into a home address.

As Om Malik of GigaOm notes, “If you install this, then it is very likely that Facebook is going to be able to track your every move, and every little action.”

Of course it will grab as much information about you as possible, and turn that into advertising revenue with levels of targeting information never available to the company before.

It is likely that Home was developed for Android first because the platform is the most open – making data mining easier than an equivalent for iPhone or Windows.

There has been much talk recently about privacy concerns in mobile apps, with users generally getting very poor information about what data apps can extract from a phone, and almost none giving any user opt-outs. 

It will be very interesting to see what reaction there will be from regulatory bodies when this hits the market.

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