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WSJ: Facebook Apps Break Site's Own Privacy Rules

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that many popular applications, or "apps", on the Facebook social network provide identification information to dozens of advertising and Web-tracking companies, breaking Facebook's privacy rules in the process.

All 10 of the site's most popular apps—pieces of software that allow users to play games or share interests—were found to share users' personal information, and three of those were also found to share information of users' friends, according to the report.

While the report doesn't question the educational potential of some apps—which are mostly constructed by independent software developers, not Facebook—it does shine further light onto a report released last week by online safety advocates Common Sense Media that shows parents and students are concerned social networks are not protecting personal information.

"This additional privacy breach also highlights why we've called for a do not track kids approach that includes no transfer of kids' personal information to third party app developers, advertisers or other groups, and why the industry standard should always be opt-in," Common Sense Media CEO James Steyer said Monday in a statement reacting to the Journal's findings. "It is also why national policymakers need to take steps immediately to ensure the privacy of kids is protected."

An opt-in standard would mean that users have to directly give consent to sites to allow them to share personal information. Many sites, including Facebook, are currently opt-out, meaning users are required to change settings so that their information is not shared. The apps in question in the Journal report were able to share basic information like names even if users had changed settings to keep all personal information private.

The revelations follow an effort earlier this month by Facebook to combat such concerns by creating a control panel to let users see which applications access which categories of personal information. Facebook also appears to have restricted some of applications in question after the Journal informed the site of its findings.

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