Are Facebook’s Woes a Preview of Things to Come for Amazon?

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Most of you are familiar with the controversy over Facebook’s revision of its privacy settings, with the default settings generally causing users to share more information about themselves with more people and, in some cases, with everyone on the Internet.

Around the same time, another controversy arose involving Facebook that received less attention: The social media site’s sharing of individual user information with advertisers in apparent violation of its privacy policy.

Facebook’s Legal Troubles…

Now, to be fair, other social media sites like MySpace are alleged to have engaged in the same behavior and the disclosure was potentially inadvertent. Although there are variations, the disclosure typically proceeds down a similar path. First, a social media user logs into their page and, while there, gets interested in an ad on the page.

The user clicks on the ad. That click automatically results in the social media site (in this case, Facebook) sending to the ad provider a stream of information. In the case of most websites, that stream of information ordinarily does not include anything about the user at an individual level. For example, the stream includes the website URL the user visited at the time he clicked the ad.

But, in the case of social media sites, a user’s profile page often includes their username within the URL so, if the user clicks on the ad from his profile page, the stream of information sent to the advertiser will include his username. If the username is the user’s actual name, then the advertiser now has his name as well.

In either case, the allegation is that the advertiser can now identify the individual user who clicked on the ad and may go back to his profile page on the social media site and view other information about him.

Please see full alert below for more information.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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