Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) last week launched its new Facebook Home, a smartphone skin that overlays an Android operating system. The new feature will be pre-loaded on the new HTC First handset and is available for download on several other HTC and Samsung phones that run Android 4.1 or later versions.
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), in some parts of the world, is very addicting – some users admit to checking the site several times to a dozen times a day, while in other parts of the world (like in South Africa, like we mentioned here) there are signs of “Facebook fatigue.”
But Facebook has gained quite a reputation (well-founded) for being a haven for advertising thanks to its massive store of information about all of its 1 billion users. While Facebook may have a lot of information about us, can Facebook Home be used as another platform – this one more omnipotent – to gather even more information for the social network and its advertisers?
While it’s not quite a Facebook phone, which was rumored for months, this certainly puts Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) front and center on an Android-based smartphone. Facebook Home places a feed on a smartphone’s home screen, providing a slideshow of the most recent posts, photos and messages from friends. There is also upgraded notifications, and “chat bubbles” that pop up when a friend contacts you via Facebook Messenger.
Seems pretty slick, huh? While this seems like a great way for Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) to have its social network available even more readily to Android smartphone users, but can this also be an opportunity for Facebook to gather even more information about the smartphone user? After all, Facebook does track information for those who use Facebook, and Facebook Home (unless you manually change the settings) will be on all the time, so it will likely be able to track everything you do on your phone – and can allow the social network to grab even more information about users, their behaviors and preferences.
Thus, while Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has an interesting concept that certainly can improve communications and social interactions among users, there certainly could be some privacy concerns. “(Home) will allow Facebook to track more of a user’s behavior on devices and present more opportunities to serve up advertising, which is Facebook’s main business model,” said Jan Dawson, an analyst at Ovum, a tech consulting firm. “And that presents the biggest obstacle to success for this experiment: Facebook’s objectives and users are once again in conflict. Users don’t want more advertising or tracking, and Facebook wants to do more of both.”
In response to this, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) privacy officers Michael Richter and Erin Egan weighed in on four privacy issues that may be concerns for users of Facebook Home. We’ll explore all four of these issues here, and how these privacy officers say that Facebook handles the issues.
Let’s check out the list: