What a difference a day makes. Just yesterday we noted that the TIME cover story on Facebook’s privacy issues didn’t come down too hard on the company, overall.
This morning, however, The Wall Street Journal reported social networks including Facebook and MySpace have been revealing user’s personally identifiable information to advertisers. From the story:
Advertising companies are receiving information that could be used to look up individual profiles, which, depending on the site and the information a user has made public, include such things as a person’s real name, age, hometown and occupation.
A Facebook spokesperson did their best to downplay the issue as only relevant to small number of users:
We were recently made aware of one case where if a user takes a specific route on the site, advertisers may see that they clicked on their own profile and then clicked on an ad.
Why is this important? Besides the obvious privacy implications, the entire crux of the PR around many companies who operate in the social network marketing and advertising space has been about how they don’t use PII, or personally identifiable information.
The issue is of such importance to the industry, that the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has issued many PR campaigns around it, including earlier this month, when they released an industry guide titled, “Data Usage & Control Primer: Best Practices & Definitions.”
In the grand scheme of things, will Facebook and MySpace users really care about these issues? Maybe. However, it will continue to be a major PR headache for both social networks and the companies that depend on them to generate revenue.