Google is Secretly Mining Facebook Data

The Harmony Guy has posted an interesting article highlighting a vulnerability in the Compare People application on Facebook. This is significant given that the application has close to 700,000 people and close to 10 million people have added the application. This means that Google technically has information about almost 20% of all application users. So what information do they have exactly? According to the Harmony Guy:

The Compare People application on Facebook sends user profile information, such as age, gender, city, ZIP code, favorite music, favorite movies, favorite TV shows, favorite books, “about me,” activities, interests, and political view to Google AdSense when displaying advertisements within the application.

I tried to look through the source code, but when I checked there was a 503 error being displayed. I also took a look at the company’s WHOIS information and found Naval Ravikant’s name pop-up. If you don’t know who Naval is, he is a VC based out in the Silicon Valley area. He is also the founder of Epinions. While I haven’t had the chance to reach out to Naval to get a comment, this is a serious accusation and as the Harmony Guy pointed out, it is clearly a violation of Facebook’s terms of service.

I’m not quite sure what Google would do with this data aside from accessing a significant amount of competitive data. I wonder if we’ll see the Compare People application back up and running soon! If you know anything else, please let us know!

Naval Ravikant has since contacted me about this issue. Perhaps I have less of an understanding of the issue than Naval does. Naval has stated, “To my knowledge we’re not doing anything malicious or wrong – we’re simply targeting Google Adsence using the Google_hits parameter, a widely accepted use of adsense on the net. Google has assured us that they do not store the information and comply with the Facebook TOS. However, we’ve disabled it anyway.” Additionally, the application seems to be back up and running.

The only real question left is if Google stores this data. Isn’t it Google’s job to store as much data as they can? Google has said they don’t store this information but that’s like sitting in front of a screen of competitive data and not looking.

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