WATCH OUT, world, here comes Facebook Connect. It’s the latest way the internet’s fastest-growing social networking website is setting out to make itself the indispensable global portal to the World Wide Web.
Facebook wants its users to make it all happen, because without the content provided by the profiles built by the 90 million current users and the hundreds of thousands being added every day, Facebook would have nothing to sell.
And “sell” is the operative word: Facebook Connect is all about opening up the data on its site directly to third-party applications.
As internet commentator Om Malik has noted: “Facebook is building a money machine. You are essentially telling Facebook’s proverbial brain what topics … with which you like to engage. In other words, you just told the system a little bit about yourself. Now imagine such information coming from dozens of Facebook Connect partners.
“Each service adds a few more data points about you inside the Facebook brain, which is quite aware of your activities inside the Facebook ecosystem.
“The brain can then crunch all that information and build a fairly accurate image of who you are, what you like and what might interest you,” Malik said.
“With all that information at its disposal, Facebook can build a fairly large cash register.”
Why should this be of concern to business? In any organisation with more than a dozen employees, some will have Facebook profiles and they will probably access them from work. This means that, at the most basic level, there are concerns about soaking up a firm’s internet bandwidth with non-work usage.
Then, apart from the simple careless (or malicious) revelation of company business, there are serious security concerns that have yet to be addressed about the way that Connect functions.
As Dan Farber of online publisher CNet said: “Facebook Connect … will let users access and feed their Facebook profiles and friends on any website. Facebook is the identity system and portal through which the content from other sites flows.”
The implications for access via Facebook to internal company networks, therefore, cannot be ignored. As has been shown many times, when it comes to network security, the Napoleonic Code has the right approach: guilty until proven innocent.
The situation is further complicated by the news from a recent conference for some of the 400,000 developers Facebook claims are active on its platform. The conference announced that Connect would be available for the iPhone soon.
If access is going to work through the 3G iPhones, the market can only be wondering now how hard it would be to create malicious access to commercial networks via the ubiquitous BlackBerry