Going Phishing Off the Facebook Platform?

Facebook isn’t really the next big thing anymore. It’s the big thing
now. The site saw 110 percent more visitors in June 2007
than June 2006, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. The most popular
social network out there, MySpace, only grew 30 percent during that
time.

But there’s mounting evidence that Facebook and its platform are
starting to crack under the pressure of its popularity.

In an Aug. 6 post on one of its official blogs, Facebook was
forced to warn developers that, as the post’s title read, “Misleading
Notifications To Users Will Be Blocked.”

“Over the last few weeks we have noticed several developers
misleading our users into clicking on links, adding applications and
taking actions,” the post reads.

“While the majority of developers are doing the right thing and
playing by the rules, a few aren’t – and are creating spam as a result.”

Spam might be the least of Facebook’s worries. Junk advertising is a
pain, but when users start “taking actions” through “misleading
clicks,” security becomes an issue. It can lead to users turning over
confidential information and putting their friends at risk of doing the same.

Because the Facebook platform uses its own mark-up language, FBML,
these sorts of security threats weren’t supposed to be an issue,
Facebook CTO Adam D’Angelo told internetnews.com shortly after
the platform’s launch.

Well, they are. And the blog post indicates Facebook takes the
phishing threat seriously. In it, Facebook says that developers
caught “deceptively notifying users or tricking them into taking
actions” will be blocked from sending users notifications.

But the phishing problem isn’t the first time Facebook has dealt with
privacy glitches since its platform launch in May. On July 31, the
site went down for several hours. Later, Facebook spokesperson
Brandee Barker told internetnews.com a bug in the system had
exposed a group of users to private users’ pages.

“This was not the result of a security breach,” Barker said in a
statement.

But something broke, just as precautions against misleading
applications seems to have failed to a degree.

The question is whether the cracks in the platform are mere growing
pains — similar to the turmoil Facebook experienced when it introduced its News Feed and when it opened its network beyond students — or are signs of something more troubling, as the
company prepares for its rumored initial public offering.

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