An exec from Yahoo! denies allegations that the company molests the privacy of Facebook users without their knowledge. Instead, he said the opposite, Yahoo! cares about your privacy.
It all began when Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, wanted to read an article.
"I was intrigued about certain plot elements, so I started doing some Google searches," Perlow wrote. "One of the entries that came up was on one of the Yahoo properties. I clicked on the link in the search results."
But when he did, instead of the article he wanted to read appearing, a dialog screen like the one below, appeared.
Yahoo! Facebook dialog screen
Perlow continued: I must have glazed right over the verbiage. As first glance, it looks rather innocuous. Instead of the usual “Authorize” on the upper right you get for most Facebook-connected apps, you get a “Okay, Read Article” prompt."
Perlow got the article, but he didn't know he was getting something else: the Yahoo! Social Bar.
The iTunes application store describes the Yahoo! Social Bar this way: "Now you can discover the news based on what your Facebook friends are reading."
screenshot/iTunes app web page
iTunes App Store - Yahoo! Social Bar for iPhone screenshot
But Perlow didn't want to discover the news based on what his Facebook friends were reading, nor did he want his Facebook friends to discover the news based on what he was reading, unless he decided to share it.
Now, broadcasting to all my friends that I read about an upcoming SF blockbuster film is really not a big deal. However, I really do not want my friends seeing everything I’m reading on the Yahoo properties, regardless of subject matter.
The story could have been about, I dunno, much more controversial stuff. It may have been about political candidates, human sexuality, terrorism, or any number of things I don’t wan’t people inferring I think about one way or another.
His conclusion: "If I want to share a story or a link, I’ll do it on my own terms."
"Keep your damn purple tentacles off my Facebook profile, Yahoo!" Perlow writes.
Perlow put all of this in an article entitled, "Yahoo! is a Facebook API molester." One of the reasons he did so was because he realized other might opt-in without realizing what they were being exploited, he said.
"Now, it just so happens that I caught and understood exactly what Yahoo did because it was exploiting the Facebook Open Graph API to its own advantage. Your average user might not have caught this, though."
"Beware of Yahoo and its purple Open Graph tentacles," Perlow advised readers. "And review your app permissions and read the fine print on all app requests, with extreme vigilance.
"Has Yahoo or another one of Facebook’s Open Graph partners molested your Facebook profile lately? Talk Back and Let Me Know."
Yahoo!: We care about your privacy
Someone did let him know: Yahoo executive Jonathan Katzman, Senior Director of Social Product Experiences.
Katzman promptly published a response entitled, Yahoo!: We care about your privacy.
"First off, we care about and respect our users’ privacy and kept that top of mind when designing Social Bar, so it’s always clear what content is shown to friends on both Facebook and Yahoo!," Katzman began.
screenshot/ Yahoo! News webpage for social bar
Screenshot of Yahoo! Social Bar from Yahoo! news web page
He said more than 55 million people around the world have opt-ed in to use the Social Bar experience making it a big success for the company. "It is now the #2 consumer Facebook app on the AppData leader board, just behind CityVille in terms of monthly active users," he said.
A completely “opt-in” experience.
Katzman does concede that, "this feature would not be for everyone."
We designed it to be a completely “opt-in” experience. People who choose to use it have granular control over what they share, and the ability to easily turn it off. These control features are not hidden on a settings page. We put them right next to your profile picture on every piece of content that you share.
Some readers questioned the sincerity of Katzman's piece.
"I have never trusted anyone who starts out by saying "trust me, I'm not a crook," Data-Dude wrote on ZDNet.
"Another person once told the world that his social experiments were for our own good; his name was Hitler."
Others thought Katzman glazed over the concerns that initially provoked Perlow to write the initial piece.
"Umm, what? All Jason wanted was to read an article, I don't think he was interested in some "social bar,"CobraA1 quipped. "As proven by Jason's screenshots in his previous article ... When you decide to connect Yahoo to Facebook, you opt into everything or nothing at all."