Facebook's release of 'home' spurs privacy worries


Mark Zuckerberg: 'The home screen is really the soul of your phone'

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Facebook's "home" software for Android phones could "destroy" privacy, warn industry watchers and analysts.

Unveiled on 4 April, home is a "wrapper" for Android and puts Facebook feeds on a phone's main screen.

But the detailed data that could be mined from home users could intrude on private life, commentators warned.

Many took issue with the claim that home put people, not apps, at the heart of the mobile experience, saying it would help Facebook sell ads.

Handset home

Home was shown off in a presentation given at Facebook's campus by the social network's founder Mark Zuckerberg. He said it was an attempt to do away with app-centred systems that were a legacy of the computer world in which people clicked on an icon to start a program.

Once installed on a phone, home takes over the lock screen and main display turning it into a live feed of information, notifications and images Facebook users are sharing.

The "always on" nature of home bothered industry watcher Om Malik from tech news website GigaOm who said it could be a route to gathering data about users that would otherwise be hard to find.

"This application erodes any idea of privacy," he wrote. "If you install this, then it is very likely that Facebook is going to be able to track your every move, and every little action."

Users of home could see their privacy "destroyed", he warned.

Harry McCracken at Time pointed out that many other apps can grab data like home but said it would be "comforting" to get confirmation from Facebook that it had no plans to datamine the lives of its users.

Their worries were echoed by Natasha Lomas at TechCrunch who said "The Facebookification of the mobile web is a threat to openness, to choice, to privacy - but only if you care about those things".

Ms Lomas wrote that home would create many winners and losers and said it was a way for Facebook gradually to take over more and more functions on phones. Home will have monthly updates and Ms Lomas expected many of those to use Facebook as the core controls for a handset.

Facebook Home launch The home software will swap apps for a people-centred system, said Facebook

She also wondered if home would be a success or prove unpopular with users.

"Facebook thinks it's more important to people than it actually is," Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research, told Reuters.

"For the vast majority of people, Facebook just isn't the be-all and end-all of their mobile experience," he said. "It's just one part."

"I see a more apathetic response among Facebook users than Facebook might be expecting," he added.

Jan Dawson, senior telecoms analyst at Ovum, said home was the "next best thing" to creating a Facebook operating system for mobiles.

Mr Dawson added that the change would let Facebook track more of a user's behaviour on devices and to serve up ads.

"That presents the biggest obstacle to success for this experiment: Facebook's objectives and users' are once again in conflict," he said. "Users don't want more advertising or tracking, and Facebook wants to do more of both."

The software will be available via Google's Play Store as a download and will work only with phones running Android 4.0 or higher - this accounts for about 50% of all Android phones. Home will be available on 12 April in the US and soon after in other territories.

No information was given about whether home would be redeveloped to work with Apple or Microsoft phones.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Would you use the device or application knowing that information provided backfires on you? The value of data is increasing every day and some companies have lost focus on what triggers their ability to perform. Maybe companies need to re-focus on delivering value to their customers rather than blindly pushing for data collection without considering the interests of their customers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Why don't they just create some interactive goggles that people can wear 24/7 to give them an uninterruputed stream of what's happening on Facebook?


  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    To the people dismissing Android. Are you that uneducated to not understand YOU DON'T HAVE TO INSTALL FACEBOOK!. No one is going to force you and Google will not "pre install" this junk on your phone, so simple answer is DON'T INSTALL IT. Unlike other fruity (Controlling) phone OS, the beauty of android is YOU are in control.
    Please know your tech before owning one. Luddites.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    The suggested site that FB throws up annoy me no end, specially after clicking them off, you might like to think they would not bother you any more, but no, the next time you open there is the site you have not the least bit of interest in facing you once more! FB becomes less about keeping contact with friends and more about advertising and in doing so are nailing the coffin shut for me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    I dumped facebook and twitter nearly two years ago, I haven't missed them and my anxiety about my personal data being kept private and not used by firms to help provide revenue has gone. If you object the the erosion of your privacy and the sale of your personal details, close your facebook account, you wont miss it... Remember email? It's still there and so long as you use SSL relatively private.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Over the last 6 months, my Facebook updates from friends have dramatically reduced and ad-hoc adverts have increased.
    I'm almost at the point of quitting FB, and so are many of my friends.
    Unwanted tripe on my mobile is not welcome.

  • Comment number 63.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Safe to say, the 21st century really is the dystopian future often portrayed in films, literature and comic books.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    I'd already given up on the mobile version because I got fed up with my phone pinging all the time with mindless updates.
    I think Facebook is a good way to keep in touch with people - but I'll stick with the browser based version on my PC. I don't need Facebook to take over my life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Gosh, wow, gee wizz. Facebook in the news again. For how much longer is the repository of irrelevant and purile ramblings - " I hate my Job", "Im ironing" and "dont you think my feet look big?" etc. etc. going to dominate the "tech" sector.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Facebook is a company that makes money from data and information. Anything it does will have a business incentive and this will do that. The harvested information ends up making money in someway at the end of the day.

    I personally won't be adding this. I control how I interact with people and manage my life.

    Expect to see cuts in the CIA once this is released ;)

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    The thought of my lovely htc phone constantly displaying facbook feeds make me cringe. Surely there are more important things in life to be concentrating on, like whats right in front of you (your children who you are missing grow up because your head is glued to your phone and your other family members, who probably think you are rude constantly glued to your mobile looking at your updates)

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Anyone fancy doing the ostrich?

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    The world's youngest billionaire, even if Facebook declines, the man has done very well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    If this is all farcebook has got, it seems it is the beginning of the end!

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Have you seen Facebook's price earning ratio ? It's well over 1,000 ! The company's stock is very over valued. If they haven't worked out how to make money yet then I wonder if they ever will without breaking their popular model. The only things the company has in it's favour is it's user base (who aren't spending) and the massive reserves of cash from going public but the cash won't last forever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    A bit of a non-story really - this is surely just an app that presents information in a widget, nothing new there...

    Why would you through your phone away? Just don't install it, uninstall or don't use it if it comes bundled or embedded and if it really matters that much avoid buying a phone from any manufacturer who does bundle it.

    No-one is saying you have to use it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    So, 25% of time spent on a phone is browsing Facebook. That leaves 75% even for those that have any interest in US marketing pap still doing something else. Hopefully the people of the world will one day regain enough common sense not to give Zuckerberg even more control of their lives - maybe they'll even use a phone to talk to someone that they know!

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    My 10 year old mobile is in the car for emergency use only. I've never seen Facebook or Twitter and, guess what, I'm able to run my life and actually speak to people!

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    To all those people who are moaning and groaning about the intrusion of their privacy, the adverts, posts and polls such as "like this bunny for cancer", you need to realise that Facebook is a free to use service and can't expect the service to be tailored to your individual tastes and preferences. That's why there are options to hide certain posts. Find something important to whinge about.


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