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Who's Really Reading Your Facebook Top Five Lists?

o Ian Paul
21.07.2009 kl 13:31 |

Do you love posting your Top 5 pick lists on Facebook? If so, you should be aware that you're sharing your lists with more than just your Facebook friends. LivingSocial, the company behind the application that lets you create the lists, is selling your Top 5 data to major entertainment outfits.

 

Do you love posting your Top 5 pick lists on Facebook? If so, you should be aware that you're sharing your lists with more than just your Facebook friends. LivingSocial, the company behind the application that lets you create the lists, is selling your Top 5 data to major entertainment outfits.

LivingSocial CEO Tim O'Shaughnessy was interviewed in the August edition of Wired Magazine. In a one page Q-and-A, O'Shaughnessy made some comments that have interesting implications for the data your share on Facebook.

When asked what Living Social does with all the data they collect from the Top 5 applications on Facebook, O'Shaughnessy said, "We go to marketers and say, 'Here are a couple million people into music, and here are a couple million into movies.' We're working with American Idol, Green Day, TNT, a lot of large brands."

So not only are you sharing your Top 5 movies and books with your friends, you are potentially sharing that data with producers, rock bands, TV stations, and who knows what else. When Wired asked O'Shaughnessy if he felt users understood LivingSocial was making money off these "confessions," the LivingSocial CEO said, "I think people understand that if something's free, there's some form of monetization involved."

If you're a regular PC World reader this news may not come as a shock to you. In May, my colleague JR Raphael wrote a story about the hidden secrets of online quizzes, and how quiz companies may be using your Facebook data for marketing purposes. Whenever you press that blue "Allow" button to play games, chuck cows at your friends, or let the world know which Little House on the Prairie character you are (as it turns out, I'm Carrie Ingalls), you're not just adding an application: You're giving the application developer access to personal information on your profile.

O'Shaughnessy's comments are yet another reminder that any information you post on Facebook is not necessarily staying behind Facebook's walled garden of services. In fact, if you want to see what other people like, you can go to the LivingSocial homepage and watch a live feed of LivingSocial users sending out data via their iPhone, Facebook, and other sites.

I've dropped LivingSocial a note to find out if the company is anonymyzing the data it's sharing with their marketing partners. There's a huge difference between saying "over 950 thousand people on Facebook love The Simpsons," and showing a list of specific Facebook users who put The Simpsons at the number one spot on their Top 5.

LivingSocial is actively used by over 20 million active users every month, according to the LivingSocial fan page on Facebook.

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