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 149.

    Anyone who thinks they have privacy when they put their lives and personal information on a network like Facebook will probably not care about the impact of this latest software, even if it erodes privacy further. Simple option - if you don't want it, don't install it. Use of social networks is a personal choice, not a requirement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Each update of FB mobile adds more control "permisions" the latest wants your location using any means availabe (network or GPS) ~ why does fb want to know where I am why would I want FB to know where I am without me knowing about it?~ also it wants to read my phone book wants to know who am phoning when I make a phone call it wants to know the serial # of my phone why? FBhome does it in one go!

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    No doubt somebody is already working on an app along the lines of Ghostery or DNT+ that'll sort this out...

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    David may choose not to use these things, but everyone else will be broadcasting the details of his life to all and sundry. If you want to do something about the privacy intrusion, don't moan, instead use Data Protection legislation against anyone you suspect of holding excessive information about you! That's what it's there for. p.s. Facelessbook and Proud!

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    I am already fed up with the way facebook is built in to most versions of android (On o2's myself) and unremovable (without voiding warrantee) as I don't and won't ever use facebook, I have not done the last 2 major android updates as both work add facebook features which would be using space on my phone without being used. Why do I get the feling that 'Home' will end up doing the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    i have never understood why people want share their life with everybody. i don't and thus do not use facebook or twitter etc. if you want privacy don't be part of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    I'm not sure about privacy issues but with a constant always on data feed telling be every time one of my friends goes to the toilet or has a cup of tea I would dread to see my next mobile bill with it's data charges.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Most of us like FB and simple comments like 'leave it' don't really help! It is the in-timeline form of advertising that bugs people the most - the suggested posts. Indeed there is a growing reaction against it at https://www.facebook.com/#!/SayNoToSuggestedPosts

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Why do people constantly freak out about privacy on Google or Facebook but ignore the erosion of our right to privacy by government and law enforcement? The level of outrage over things like the Draft Communication Bill or the Justice and Security Bill is nothing compared to the level of outrage that Facebook is met with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Fb is trying to justify itself and it's share prices. Annoying, unwanted candy coating is more unjustified fluff. TV used to be free, paid by advertisers. Now it is expensive and we still have to put up with ads we are paying to watch. Talk about greed and corrupted logic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Facebook this , Facebook that .
    Hey ! Live in the real world ,meet REAL people . Don't use it , then it won't intrude on your privacy .
    It's not THAT difficult surely ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    @167 thats easy to sort. Dont install Facebook Home then, stick with the normal app or mobile website.

    @135 Google Now can learn all it wants about me! Best feature to be added to a phone in the last couple of years!

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    I'm fine with a facebok app, it keeps me in touch with people on the go, but I don't want all of my phone stuff to go through facebook. I don't want to be constantly tracked by facebook. No thanks MR. Zuckerberg

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.


    For all that FB does raise a lot of cash through advertising it does make a very large % of their income - that mostly comes from selling users' data to third party companies/advertisers in other mediums....

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    What about Google Now? That knows more about me than I know about me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Really? People are complaining about ads? I havent actually seen any ads at all on my Galaxy S2 version of Facebook, so no spam whatso ever. This looks to me like a combination of a Windows Mobile type skin a theme from GoLauncher combined. Not really something I want my mobile life to revolve around. I sense this to be a teenager/uni student plaything, not a serious use for a smartphone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    FaceBook is free to use, how do you think it is free? its like ITV, channel 4 and all commercial TV channels money is raised through advertising but you don't stop watching them.
    You are not forced to read the adverts just ignore them,
    Perhaps if FB offered a pay service (£5 a year) to remove ads (like many Mobile games and apps) this would suit people better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Why would I buy this phone when I know I would lose my privacy...That cares about FACEBOOK if I want FB I will create FB account spent few minutes and log off.....This is stupid and who gives right to this companies to collect data about "consumer behaviour"

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    OK. 5 years from now. Imaginary scenario.

    Man walks down street and drags woman into alley way and assaults her.

    Man deliberately does not have phone on his person because at this time criminals are well aware of surveillance in personal technology.

    Police analyse data. Man is the only person on the street who didn't have phone or FB.

    Man is immediate suspect. Understand ! ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    I think this is facebook's way of taking over android they are just letting users get familiar with the facebook interface, as we all know facebook already has a mobile app development platform and since android is open source it is just a matter of time before android is owned by facebook.. I think it makes sense... rather than creating a new mobile platform just take over the most popular one.


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