Over at the Columbia Journalism Review, Ryan Chittum writes about the ethics of social news apps.
In particular, he notes that while there’s much we may want to share, most people don’t understand the extent of what we share. For example, one partner in a relationship reading an article about breaking up that then appears in his or her Facebook timeline.
Facebook calls this frictionless sharing.
Chittum believes that publishers need to be more transparent about what their Facebook apps are going to do and share. Using the highly successful Washington Post app as an example, he writes:
The tagline [to the app] is “share what you read with your friends!”, which sounds innocent and useful enough. I like to share links to stories I think other people should read. Up high it says, “Okay, Read Article,” and when you push that button, it installs the app. There’s nothing telling you directly that you’re installing an app. A box in the bottom corner says “This app may post on your behalf, including articles you read, people you liked and more,” but how many people actually read that?…
…Not only does this stuff show up in my news feed several times a day (Yahoo’s app is also a frequent offender), but you can also go in there and click on your friends who have the app to see what they’ve read. The history goes back months. Jeff Bercovici reported back in the fall that even if you set the Post’s Social Reader to not let anyone see what you’ve read, friends can still go in and see what you’ve read. That’s egregious.
The solution, of course, comes back to the reader. First, monitor your app settings. Although, the Bercovici article gives pause as to whether that would even work. Second, contact publications about their apps and the concerns you have with them.
Ryan Chittum, Columbia Journalism Review. The Ethics of Social News Apps.