At a minimum, knowing your UID can show someone your name and Facebook likes, but many users also leave other information public such as their location and friends list. The brokers could use any information they find on your Facebook profile and sell it to advertisers.
Facebook says “fewer than a dozen” Facebook application developers were selling UIDs to data brokerage firms. As a result of their naughty behavior, the data-selling developers have been suspended from Facebook for six months. Facebook will also audit the developers to make sure they don’t sell Facebook user information again. The social network also says it is working on a technical solution to make it impossible for developers to leak UIDs in the future.
Facebook didn’t name the developers or the applications they produced, but the company did say they were “mostly small” Facebook application makers and none were behind the top 10 applications on Facebook.
Some of Facebook’s partners have also been pulled into the social network’s latest privacy scandal. Popular Facebook developer Zynga–the company behind games such as Farmville and Mafia Wars–was recently the target of a class-action lawsuit over its alleged treatment of Facebook user data.
Facebook Privacy Scandal or Much Ado About Nothing?
Even if you account for the fact that some developers were selling user IDs to data brokerage firms, it is debatable about how serious this so-called privacy breach really is. Knowing your user ID cannot reveal any private information you have on Facebook, and some have likened knowing your UID to finding your name and address in the phone book. Regardless, it is reassuring to hear that Facebook has zero tolerance for data leakers and is punishing those who violated Facebook’s policies and sold UIDs to outside firms.