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 109.

    Hmm..."you can see more of that without unlocking your phone" - as can anyone else, Mark.
    Also, Part of the point of having this stuff as apps is that I can elect not to have the connectivity if I don't want it. I CHOOSE to use facebook or not. But of course, that's harder for them to monetise, isn't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    As a concept FB is a good social tool. What hampers it is trying to make money out of it. I was not surprised to see FB shares slump. It is just a sophisticated bill board that relies on increasingly intrusive methods to target adverts at users. The ethos that it provides a social service went out of the window when the investors moved in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Windows Phone already does a lot of this (and more) with it's People Hub - you can already switch between SMS and Facebook messaging and carry on the conversation - the News feed pulls in stories from Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In. None of this is new. The Home app is all about keeping people on Facebook. I can't see them pulling in Google+ or LinkedIn stories like Windows Phone does.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    FB, What a load of trash ,get a life and dump it

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Why has the BBC linked its flagship Radio 4 morning news 'Today' programme to Facebook?

    Unless I've missed a link somewhere, you have to open a Facebook account in order to comment on 'Today' news stories.

    Likewise with Twitter a few weeks back.
    Jeremy Bowen had a question/answer session only available to Twitter account holders.

    Strange bedfellows??

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Solution: Don't buy an Android handset.
    Punish them where it hurts, their bottom line.
    If you own shares and disapprove, dump your stock!
    That would be like punishing ford because someone used a transit in a bank robbery. IT always amazes me that people who know very little about this have such strong views

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Dont use social networks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Nobody is forced to install this. Everything is optional. Install it if you, don't if you don't. Not sure what the problem is. All this BS about Facebook intruding your privacy. It does nothing of the sort. They provide a service when you choose to use and they are clear about how things work. If you can not work out what data is captured and used, maybe don't use Facebook.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Oh give over now!

    You know what you can do if you dont like facebook or the apps its offering? Dont use them! Home is an app you add on, its your choice to use it, dont like it, dont use it!

    They are offer a FREE service so expect some adverts, they are a business after all not a chairty and having facebook as you like it is not a human right.

    Get over yourselves!

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Why aren't facebook kicked out of the country? When BP oil spill messed up the gulf of mexico BP was kicked out the country so fast, it's feet didn't touch the ground, but when it's an american company like exxon that does it, it's different.

    This situation is no different, FB is abusing it's power and has no business in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Facebook should not be trying to make the mobile Facebook centric; its an application and should stay that way. User's shoul use the app just like any other. any mention of making Facebook an OS then I will be deleting my Facebook account!

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    I really suggest you unplug your internet because there's worse than FB out there. Remember that toolbar you installed? there you go
    Its not that hard to keep yourself secure online this is like those toolbars turned up to max. BTW does anyone remember the myspace phone, this will go the same way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    @#63 - This has nothing to do with Android - feel free to buy an Android phone, but if you don't want FB Home then don't install it! It will never become standard on phones because manufacturers want their own skin, not FBs and Google won't do it because they want their own stock skin!

    The answer is simple - for you it starts by stopping being a troll and scaremonger...

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Working in online marketing but also valuing privacy I can see this from both sides. Ultimately it is all down to choice. If you choose to use very powerful products like Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc., free of charge at point of use, then you have to accept that they will need to generate revenue via alternative means. If you don't want to see ads then it is simple, use alternative tools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Forget the technology. The driving force behind nearly all websites is earnings from advertising. Privacy and customer convenience are never an issue where revenue is concerned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Facebook is the greatest surveillance tool ever created.

    Look at Zuckerbergs smiling, embarrassed, red face in every photo.

    Looks like the guy who won an award for someone elses work.

    Facebook, Google and the rest will always be free and shoved down our throats.

    Because as far as the US is concerned, that is a better prospect than a foreign or peer to peer, unregulated equivalent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    I have an android. Deleted my facebook account many months ago. Its a shame there is no option to delete the pre-installed facebook app on my phone. Facebook is not a necessity of life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    If you're that worried about privacy, there's a simple solution, don't download facebook home, or better yet jus don't have Facebook!

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    There's evidence that the younger generation are actually moving away from Facebook due to a view that it’s too slow/permanent and instead are using tools like SnapChat. Instead the view is its a slightly older audience that now uses FB and I'm not sure this group will want such deep integration.

    I've already checked my FB app is not set to auto-update as Home is the last thing I want!

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    11. FishOnADish

    It's not actually the law to install the Facebook App or even have a Facebook account you now.


    Well, it's impossible to uninstall facebook on an Android phone.

    Maybe not impossible, but ive not found a way to yet


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