NPR used the recent Facebook privacy scandal (many of the social-networking site’s most popular applications were transmitting users’ identifying data, even for people who had set the strictest privacy settings possible on the site) as a chance to look more broadly at privacy habits.
But many of the popular games and applications on Facebook, such as Farmville and Mafia Wars, do give notice that the game will access some personal information — and users play anyway. […]
When it comes to privacy, many people have a hard time understanding the risks.
“We see all sorts of security warnings pop up on our screen, and we’ve gotten so used to just kind of swatting them away, and it’s very rare that anything bad ever happens to us,” [Lorrie Cranor, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and an expert on marketing strategies and privacy,] said. […]
Health insurance companies may also try to mine online data. A couple of years ago, there was a case of a health insurer who tried to access the Facebook and MySpace accounts of a teen with an eating disorder to deny her coverage. No one really knows what will happen with all of that data online, said privacy consultant Robert Gellman.
“People don’t know what’s going on, and a lot of times and a lot of circumstances they have no rights with respect to the information they’ve given up,” Gellman said. “The companies that collect that information can basically do anything they want with it.”
So no matter how much fun that online game may be, Gellman said, consumers might want to think a lot harder before they trade their information for a good time.