If I'm reading this Wall Street Journal story correctly, Farmville, which is made by the only gaming company more evil than Activision, transmits information about you to third parties even if you don't play it.
They get it from your friends. Your slack-jawed, mouth-breathing friends.
The Journal found that all of the 10 most popular apps on Facebook were transmitting users' IDs to outside companies.
The apps, ranked by research company Inside Network Inc. (based on monthly users), include Zynga Game Network Inc.'s FarmVille, with 59 million users, and Texas HoldEm Poker and FrontierVille. Three of the top 10 apps, including FarmVille, also have been transmitting personal information about a user's friends to outside companies.
Of course, they have a little help from you. They'll share your name and whatnot regardless, but the more information you make available to the public, the more they'll share.
The apps reviewed by the Journal were sending Facebook ID numbers to at least 25 advertising and data firms, several of which build profiles of Internet users by tracking their online activities.
Defenders of online tracking argue that this kind of surveillance is benign because it is conducted anonymously. In this case, however, the Journal found that one data-gathering firm, RapLeaf Inc., had linked Facebook user ID information obtained from apps to its own database of Internet users, which it sells. RapLeaf also transmitted the Facebook IDs it obtained to a dozen other firms, the Journal found.
RapLeaf said that transmission was unintentional. "We didn't do it on purpose," said Joel Jewitt, vice president of business development for RapLeaf.
Suuuuuuuure they didn't.
Of course, as evil as it is, Farmville is just a parasite, a sort of tick-bird riding on the rhinoceros of privacy infringement that is Facebook. Like the tick-bird, Farmville serves a valuable function for Facebook. It keeps the ticks, all of you people, in control, pestering their friends with messages about needing nails or haystacks and whatnot, rather than thinking about the consequences of their actions.
It's increasingly clear that Facebook's very purpose is the compromise of its users' personal information, and users should consider that in deciding whether to continue the service.