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
    +2

    Comment number 89.

    "Takes over the lock screen?" Don't make me laugh. They haven't yet managed to develop a version of the basic Facebook app for Android that actually works properly. I won't be installing 'home' for the simple reason their buggy code would be highly likely to render my device unusable.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 88.

    The question is ..... why would I need another launcher? Couldn't using a Widget do instead? Still would be interesting to see where this leads.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 87.

    Frankly I think Facebook is a spent force. I used it for a while then got bored then annoyed with the constant feeds and other spam forced onto your screen.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 86.

    42. ResCyn

    ' 39.Liv
    Got yout tinfoil hat on I hope? In no way is anything you say correct. '


    Instead of making cliched , Daily Mail type comments, switch brain on.

    Facebook on phones is now the norm. In the not too distant future, anyone not 'logged on' to a particular network would be a suspect by default should a crime occur in that area.

    Common sense really, not tin foil hats.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 85.

    COULD destroy privacy?

    Surely anyone who signs up for FB has effectively destroyed their privacy already?

    If not by the company then by those who can & do exploit the gapping security holes created by your "friends" not having their security settings as tight as yours & accepting "friend" requests from any Tom, Dick or Harry...???

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 84.

    Not for Me!!!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 83.

    Oh dear, I think I may have enraged the apple fan boys. Back to the point, Android is an open OS. Unlike Apple which is locked down and dictated. Accept it or not its a fact.

    Facebook is not mandatory so get over it. and please rush and buy your iphone 5, I hear apple are loosing out on the cake ;P

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 82.

    Another instance of FB thinking it is way more important than it really is. I use FB but am getting very fed up of 'trending articles', suggested pages that are just adverts and other unwanted flotsam that FB flings my way. I get more of that than friends actual updates most days! As for allowing FB to take over the home screen of my S2, you can forget that Mark!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 81.

    I think FB should pay people to join the service; after all, we are collecting data for FB & paying FB for our own collection?
    Mr Dawson: change would let Facebook track MORE of a user's behaviour on devices & to serve up ads. FB's objectives are ONCE AGAIN in conflict with users.
    I wish I knew what all this "intrusion" ia really about!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 80.

    @ 62

    Yes, this optional extra on a device you don't have to own is just like the totalitarian dictatorship in 1984.

    Will nobody make a stand against these evil consumer products?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 79.

    Inviting Facebook into your life is like inviting Dracula into a blood bank. Not content with milking personal information from young people who may not know better, and others who are not tech savvy enough to manage what information they disclose, Facebook is also accused of building "shadow profiles" on non users. Look it up.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 78.

    I'm not the slightest bit worried about the effect this will have on my privacy - there isn't a snowballs chance in hell that this will get onto my phone. Problem solved. Simple.

    Useful reminder to go and see if I can delete more of what little I still have on Facebook though.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 77.

    I don't use "Facebook" & never will...so I will never again be buying an "Android" phone.

    Facebook, "Go Home, & stay "Home"!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 76.

    Why the controversy? Facebook is a commercial enterprise aimed at getting as much personal info as possible.
    Julian Assange gives info out for free and is chased down by various governments.
    The modern world - deal with it.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 75.

    Dear Mr Zuckerberg

    I want app-centred systems so I can choose what I instal on my phone. More phones are coming with undeletable apps. Google's Nexus 4 has several including some Google products and Facebook. I do not tweet, or facebook as I am unable to hold a conversation when limited to 132 characters.

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 74.

    FB is getting more obtrusive . My newsfeed now gets regular spam from Facebook called 'Games your friends are playing' which does not have the usual 'hide' function.

    On my PC I use Adblock to cut out most of the annoying ads, but will FB's wrapper for mobiles stop the use of blocking software like this so I am fed even more spam I can't control?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 73.

    I don’t know how it works in Europe, but in USA you pay your carrier for text or data downloads I have a phone that I might use twice a year, but I notice my phone bill carrying both text and data download charges; usually the product of spammers.

    Last month I paid over $5 (plus taxes) for text and data downloads, even though I did not even touch the phone.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 72.

    My obsolete Facebook page became a monument to spammers who refused to take down misleading claims thast I "used" their products and services. Anyone who wants to pay Mr Zuckerberg to mine that particular vein of fiction is welcome to it.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 71.

    @ 68.
    rs88

    Don't worry Google are onto that one ;)

    One does wounder (trying not to sound like a tin foil hat man) if companies can remote view/listen through your device. Surely if the government backed virus FLAME could do this with PCs it would be simple with phones. BUT unlike PCs your phone has GPS, Camera, mic wireless connections all in one tiny device. Big Brother anyone?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 70.

    Facebook is set up to be risky to personal information, they defy best advice of not using real names and ID, but try to insist on real ID. Bad by design.

 

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