Democratic Campaign Tool Powered by Facebook Data Could Turn Friends into Frenemies

Here is another reason why you should limit what personal data can be accessed by Facebook applications your friends use.

A Democratic activist group called NGP VAN has developed a Facebook tool that can be used to match up your privately shared data with your voting record and allow Democratic campaigners to target you for action. The likely result is you receiving more frequent and annoying campaign calls, especially as the November elections draw near.

This may surprise a lot of Facebook users who are not aware that the information they share on the site can be used externally by third parties.

“[Facebook] was born on the idea of taking information about people and making it available to others … With political information, this sharing has become a notch more like selling out your friends,” Roger Kay, a technology analyst with Endpoint Technologies told

To use the tool, one of your friends who happens to be a Democratic supporter, must log on to the Social Organizing site, and mark you as as a friend. The application can then match up the Facebook information that you have privately shared with your friends with your voting records.

Some experts expressed concern that sharing information this way may violate Facebook’s own privacy policy. One very strong argument is that most users are not even aware when a friend flags them for inclusion into Social Organizing’s database.

“Social sharing became one step more sinister when commercial activity was introduced, the product of having to satisfy shareholders with respect to revenue generation,” Kay added.

On the other hand, NGP VAN stressed that they are in full compliance with Facebook’s policy regarding user privacy.

“Our application is in full compliance with the Facebook policy, and we take their policy and privacy seriously.” He explained that the app only uses certain pieces of Facebook data — first name, last name, city and state — to match people with voter records,” explained Stu Trevelyan, the CEO of NGP VAN.

He further stressed that matching people with their voting record can be accomplished even without using data from Facebook. The availability of Facebook data only made the search quicker.

Facebook has not released an official statement about the issue. But its policy is clear on how user information can be used. “A user’s friends’ data can only be used in the context of the user’s experience on your application.”

Security experts offer advice to social networks users to be mindful of the amount of personal information that they are sharing online. This could be done by setting the Facebook’s privacy controls to limit other people’s access to your private information.

But the most important thing is to pick your social networking friends very carefully.

“Anyone can take information and match it with public information and sell the result to someone else. It’s perfectly legal and not even immoral. But those are not the friends you want,” Rob Enderle, a consumer analyst stressed.

The best way to avoid tools of this nature is to limit the amount of data you place on your Facebook profile, and then use Facebook’s privacy controls to further restrict who has access to this data. We have a couple of guides that can help get you on the right track:

How to Lockdown Your Facebook Account For Maximum Privacy and Security

How to Protect your Personal Data from Facebook Applications your Friends Use 

Recommended Resources

BitDefender Safego is a Facebook application you can install that will scan your News Feed and help keep you safe from scams on Facebook.

PRIVATE WiFi® is a Personal VPN that encrypts everything you send and receive. Don’t access Facebook from a public WiFi hotspot without it.

Do Not Track + is a FREE browser plugin created by Abine. This easy to install plugin keeps websites from tracking you. If you value your online privacy, then you should definitely take advantage of this free product.

Action Alert | Free Parental Control offers a 100% free Internet safety solution designed for parents. There is also a Maximum Protection option for parents that need a more advanced set of tools.

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