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Facebook tests game-play without permissions dialog

CNET tests a new "Start Now" option, but finds some annoyances -- like spam directed at both the user and his or her friends.

Inside Facebook

Facebook has reached agreements with game developers Electronic Arts, Kixeye, and Zynga to test a new "Start Now" option that allows users to start playing games without having to go through an app permissions dialog.

Games that have the new feature include Backyard Monsters, Battle Pirates, Indiana Jones Adventure World, and Zynga Slingo, among others. They can access a user's basic profile information and friend list without having to request doing so.

"We're beginning a limited rollout of a feature that enables people to start playing a select number of games on Facebook.com in one click, while only sharing public information and friend lists with the application to personalize the experience," a Facebook spokesperson told Inside Facebook. "Initial tests have shown that the start now functionality drove significant gains in new users and daily active users, with low opt-out rates. The feature gives people the opportunity to get started with games and apps immediately, and provides developers with more ways to grow and gain engaged users on Facebook.com."

While this is still in testing, Facebook is apparently set on pushing this feature out to everyone. In fact, the company has already updated its Help Center with an entry titled "Apps that Let Me Start Using Them Right Away." Here are the first two questions and answers that further detail "Start Now:"

Why do some apps and games on Facebook let me start using them right away?
You can start using a select number of apps and games on Facebook immediately after you search for, or discover them through requests or news feed. This new functionality lets you get started with an app right away, while sharing your basic information, which includes your public information and friends list.

The first few times you use an app with this feature, you can learn more about it or opt-out from the blue bar at the top of the screen.

What information do I share with apps that let me start using them right away?
When you start using these apps, you'll share your basic information, which includes your public information and friends list. Public information includes your name, profile picture, username and user ID, gender, networks and any information you choose to share as public.

I tried this new feature out. First, I opened up a game and quit it before it even finished loading. To my dismay, a friend noticed and commented as to why I was playing such a stupid game. Apparently just opening the game created a new Facebook story that went out to my friends' News Feeds.

Next, I opened a music app. Again I didn't do anything and closed it immediately. A few minutes later, I got an e-mail congratulating me for joining the app's network. In my eyes, I had just been spammed.

Even more annoying, there was no trace of either of these actions in my Activity Log. Clearly Facebook still has some work to do.

The permissions dialog is obviously a big obstacle for Facebook users to start using apps and to start playing games. I can see why Facebook wants to streamline the process, but it's going about it the wrong way.

If a developer wants their Facebook app or Facebook game to be used immediately, it should not be able to access any of its users' information on Facebook. That's something Menlo Park needs to enforce, not purposefully let slip right by.