How Social Network APIs Have Ended the Age of Privacy

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Online Social Networks (OSNs) have captured our imagination by offering a revolutionary medium for communication and sharing. Skeptics, however, contend that these OSNs pose a grave threat to privacy. This paper seeks to examine the veracity of this skepticism by analyzing the APIs of six popular OSNs for their propensity to violate user privacy. Our analysis lends substantial support to this skepticism by finding that OSNs: (i) facilitate an extensive collection of user information; (ii) provide default access to information of new users; (iii) do not seek comprehensive permissions; (iv) request these permissions ambiguously; and (v) offer privacy settings that enable only limited control.


Presented at the 24th International Conference on Software Engineering and Knowledge Engineering, San Francisco, CA, July 1-3, 2012.