Facebook's Recommendations Bar: A Privacy Concern?

Does Facebook's new passive sharing feature invade your privacy?

Facebook has rolled out a new feature called the Recommendations Bar for website owners. The Recommendations Bar allows website owners to tap into the social network's database of what you and your friends read, share, and like.

Here's how it works: as you read a story on a website that has the Recommendations Bar feature activated, you'll see pop-up windows in the bottom right corner of the page. The pop-up window will contain stories from the website that your Facebook friends have shared or liked. The window also contains a Like button, allowing you to like the story without ever leaving the website.

Several sites already use this feature, including the tech blog Mashable, entertainment site Wetpaint, and U.K.-based tabloid The Mirror. Recommendations are limited to articles on the website that were shared by Facebook users. Websites using the new feature reportedly see as much as three times as many clicks on stories that are recommended in the pop-up boxes.

This feature obviously benefits the website owner, but what's the benefit to you? There isn't really one--it's just another reason to be worried about your privacy on the social networking site.

Don't get me wrong--relevant recommendations from friends might be helpful. There's a good chance that the recommended content will be something that we'll be interested in reading, since we often pick our friends based on shared interests.

But there's another side to this issue, and that's the potential privacy concern. When Facebook debuts services that share, without your explicit permission, what you're doing online...well, it always seems to go south.

In May, my colleague Sarah Jacobsson Purewal noted this issue regarding Facebook's social reader apps. She said these types of features create a "giant circle of awkward oversharing that people have little control over." Who knows--what you're reading might reveal things about yourself that you're not necessarily willing to share with the world.

Since there's no way to control what type of content is shared, except to not share or like it altogether, your personal reading habits will be on display for all your friends. The only positive here is hat, unlike Social Reader, you physically need to take action on Facebook--whether you share or like the story--for it to show up in the Recommendations Bar.

For more tech news and commentary, follow Ed on Twitter at @edoswald, on Facebook, or on Google+.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Ed Oswald

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts