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A new App raises concerns about privacy on Facebook

Sites include . Published on January 21st, 2013. Written by Loic Cobbina.

It is no news that a lot of Facebook users do have privacy concern when browsing through the website. For that matter the Facebook team, many times, has tried to improve the privacy settings to allow their users to have more control over what they share. But that is still not perfect and the latest news is that an App released by Storify has a glitch that allows people who use it to pull out information that a Facebook user shared privately.

Storify.com is a website that was launched in the mid-2011 with the intention to make life easier for the online journalists that browse through social network to find out what is really news worthy. The purpose of the website is to help people sort through the noise made by the millions of users in social network and find the voices that really matter.

The site has turned out to be a useful tool for digital journalists because it gives them an easy way to compile the news in a new story format that is more interactive with photos, videos and status updates. This type of story format is much more social and has the potential to bring more traffic to the articles written by the journalist. This is why more and more online journalist are relying on that website. To make it even more fun the website has also launched an App that can be installed on the popular browsers we use.

But it seems the App installed on the browser comes with a technical glitch that allows its users to easily copy people’s private status updates on Facebook. Julie Pippete, the founder of Artful Media Group, accidentally bumped into this technical glitch that she describes as a loophole in the process. She discovered it while using the Storify App. She said the App allowed her to share the status update of a friend, even though he chose to share it privately. Once the Storify App is installed, a Storify button appears next to friends’ status updates and any user at that point, can click on it to share that status update with anybody else. Pippete said that the Storify feed even showcased her friend’s name and picture.

The founder of Artful Media Group admitted to AGBeat that she felt terrible about that and started digging it to find out what is really going on. She later figured out that the Storify App was acting more like a screen capture software. So it didn’t matter what were the privacy settings on Facebook, the App could still capture that side of the screen.

Storify users have always been able to copy and share information from people they are connected to on social websites. But according to Pippet, sometimes the status update been shared is only shared privately and the Facebook users sharing it have no idea their status could still be shared to the world through the Storify App.

A Facebook’s spokesperson responded to an email from Mashable explaining that this cannot be described as a loophole. The process that the Storify App uses to copy status updates is comparable to screen grabbing, it allows the reposting of a smaller section of the screen in a way that is similar to hitting the print button on the keyboard of a PC. The spokesperson added that no data is transferred to Storify through the Facebook’s API.

The fact is this App is not designed for Facebook. It is rather a browser extension that has the ability to cut and paste sections using screen grabbing technologies. Even though Facebook is not directly responsible for it, it might still raise people’s concerns about their privacy.

Nonetheless, most people who might want to use the Storify App are rather journalists that are monitoring important personalities like celebrity profiles on twitter or a popular musician’s Facebook page. So it is not the like average person is going to find his Facebook updates on the media anytime soon. It is still better to be careful and not accept friends request from people you don’t really know. Once they are on your friends list, they can see what you are sharing privately and re-share to the world if they want to.

Recently Facebook announced a new improvement that it is adding to its search function called the graph search. That has already raised the users concern about privacy because their private data might be in one way or the other exposed to the new graph search. That said, Facebook has again assured its users that all data and status updates shared privately will not be revealed publicly through the graph search.

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