Risk
10/18/2010
01:35 PM
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Facebook Apps Found Sharing User IDs

The social networking site says media reports exaggerate the privacy risks.

All of the ten most popular apps on Facebook have been found sharing Facebook members' user ID numbers (UIDs) with outside companies and three of the top ten Facebook apps, including Farmville, shared information about users' friends, too.

The privacy breach was discovered as a result of an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, which published its findings on Monday.

The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook users, even those who have the strictest possible privacy settings. According to the Wall Street Journal's report, the apps reviewed were found to be sending Facebook UIDs to at least 25 data collection and advertising firms.

In a post to its developer blog on Sunday evening, Facebook downplayed the privacy impact, even as it promised to take action.

"Press reports have exaggerated the implications of sharing a UID," wrote Facebook engineer Mike Vernal. "Knowledge of a UID does not enable anyone to access private user information without explicit user consent. Nevertheless, we are committed to ensuring that even the inadvertent passing of UIDs is prevented and all applications are in compliance with our policy."

Vernal said that in most cases, Facebook developers did not intend to pass UIDs to third-parties, but did so because of the way Web browsers have traditionally worked.

Disciplinary action against Facebook developers so far has been mild. The company blocked access to games made by Lolapps on Friday, but restored access shortly thereafter.

The issue has to do with "Referer URL" data, which a Web browser will generally transmit to a Web server when a user requests a Web page. The Referer URL (yes, it's misspelled) shows the URL of the Web page that referred the user, by way of a Web link, to the page being requested. This can reveal potentially sensitive information about the user, depending upon the content of the referring Web site.

Because UID numbers can be used to determine a Facebook user's name and possibly other information, this presents a potential privacy risk.

RapLeaf, one of the advertising data companies named in the Wall Street Journal report, said it had looked into the problem, which it characterized as inadvertent, and addressed it.

"When we discovered that Facebook IDs were being passed to ad networks by applications that we work with, we immediately researched the cause and implemented a solution to cease the transmissions," the company said in a blog post.

Among the Facebook users commenting on Facebook's insistence that UID transmission was mostly accidental, some expressed skepticism. "Each and every step that Facebook has taken has brought security and privacy back two steps," wrote Michael Callaghan in a comment on Facebook's developer blog.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2012-2413
Published: 2014-10-20
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the ja_purity template for Joomla! 1.5.26 and earlier allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the Mod* cookie parameter to html/modules.php.

CVE-2012-5244
Published: 2014-10-20
Multiple SQL injection vulnerabilities in Banana Dance B.2.6 and earlier allow remote attackers to execute arbitrary SQL commands via the (1) return, (2) display, (3) table, or (4) search parameter to functions/suggest.php; (5) the id parameter to functions/widgets.php, (6) the category parameter to...

CVE-2012-5694
Published: 2014-10-20
Multiple SQL injection vulnerabilities in Bulb Security Smartphone Pentest Framework (SPF) before 0.1.3 allow remote attackers to execute arbitrary SQL commands via the (1) agentPhNo, (2) controlPhNo, (3) agentURLPath, (4) agentControlKey, or (5) platformDD1 parameter to frameworkgui/attach2Agents.p...

CVE-2012-5695
Published: 2014-10-20
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in Bulb Security Smartphone Pentest Framework (SPF) 0.1.2 through 0.1.4 allow remote attackers to hijack the authentication of administrators for requests that conduct (1) shell metacharacter or (2) SQL injection attacks or (3) send an SMS m...

CVE-2012-5696
Published: 2014-10-20
Bulb Security Smartphone Pentest Framework (SPF) before 0.1.3 does not properly restrict access to frameworkgui/config, which allows remote attackers to obtain the plaintext database password via a direct request.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.