Saturday, August 28, 2010

Vanity for Privacy

Before the location services of Facebook was launched, there was a neat little option in your Facebook app that could lookup your Facebook account and download and set photos of your friends on your phone.

Before Facebook had location services, this is an outright privacy concern.
At first I thought, "Hey, thats pretty neat!" then surprisingly as you switch on that Synching tab it will prompt another message regarding privacy concerns.

Clicking I Agree would send your whole contact list to Facebook. Scary.
This kinda creeped my out. All my contacts details are going to be sent to Facebook!? This is insane! All that information just to get my contacts corresponding Facebook picture? No thanks. I backed out when I saw this message but perhaps, people would just skip through this message and hit 'I Agree' immediately.

Looking at another perspective, Facebook could have done it in a less privacy invasive way. Instead of sending out your contacts information to their servers, why not download your contacts to your phone temporarily and look up if the phone number is existing.

For example, if John Doe is my friend, and he has a mobile number +63917 123 4567 stored on his Facebook profile the only thing I need to download is his current profile picture and the number associated with him. Or, a 2-tier query would be lighter instead of downloading all of your friends pictures and numbers. First step is to download all the numbers and compare it with the numbers stored on your phone, second step is to remove all numbers not present on your phone and send back the trimmed list to Facebook to retrieve the corresponding profile picture and store it on the phone.

So why did Facebook opt to pull data from your phone rather than doing it the other way around? We cant say for sure, but given the track record of Facebook when it comes to privacy, they'd probably want to keep a whole lot of phone numbers through this approach.

Despite my selection to disagree with Facebook's contact syncing, I really couldn't say if one of my friends already sent out his/her entire phonebook content to Facebook along with my number.

Privacy as a trade off for vanity? No thank you.

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