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Facebook's iPhone app: a bug that gives out magical iPhones (not really) to friends you never knew you had

Facebook's iPhone app attributes more iPhone owners than there actually are

Newly minted iPhone 'owners' with the Facebook app Kevin Ho

This morning Facebook told me that 27 of my friends had downloaded the iPhone Facebook application. 27 out of 300+ is a good chunk of people and speaks to the fact that more and more people are getting iPhones. Of course, this is only if they can be patient to wait at least 2+ hours in line and if a given Apple/AT&T store actually has them in stock. It's hard to imagine that this has been going on for at least two weeks.

Anyway, I clicked the link to see who actually downloaded the Facebook iPhone app. Not surprisingly, they were overwhelmingly male techie types. But, looking at the roster of friends, I was surprised to see some of my iPhone-less friends there. For example, John and Jesse do not have iPhones, but, according to Facebook, they do indeed have one. I know that these two didn't wait in line for 2 hours to get one. Did they get one magically? What these two really did was to check Facebook messages or send updates on someone else's iPhone. But having done so, they've been imputed iPhone ownership by Facebook.

This bug is indicative of the buggy nature of the iPhone Facebook app. After an update last week, I've noticed that the app has crashed more frequently. Taking and sending pictures to Facebook is dicey. Forget the geo-tagging feature. Friend status updates are now for "unknowns." Somehow "unknown" is fitting given that the most random people from high school (and sometimes their mothers) who I don't recalling ever talking to, are now sending friend requests; I may have known them 10 years ago, but now? There must be a fix coming, right? Hopefully they can merge the elegant mobile version of Facebook into the clunkier app version.

Who are these people? The iPhone Facebook app keeps me guessing who my friends are

But, what's more unnerving is that as iPhones and Facebook become more ubiquitous, storing more information about you, tracking your data and processing them as cookies for targeted ads, you have to wonder. Other people whom you haven't seen in years are, well, looking you up (depending on your privacy settings of course). While it may not be a big deal attributing iPhone ownership to those who don't have them, other possibilities with more significant consequences loom that may mistakenly send the wrong message to the world.