When you think about Facebook, you think of social networking – staying in touch with your friends and people around the world. But Facebook has become so much more than just an online platform where you can meet up with other people.
Your Facebook account can be a real entertainment hub, thanks to the thousands of social apps that you can link it to. Play games, read the latest news from your favourite online newspaper, get news alerts, listen to your favourite music, rate movies, and so much more. And it’s so simple to connect to/install an app – you just have to click “Agree” to using it, and that’s it! But wait – are you agreeing to only using the app? Of course not! Developers are looking for something in exchange: your precious personal information and that of your friends.
Social apps linked to your Facebook account can track your current location, record your basic info, likes and interests, and some of them can even gather information about the people you interact with. All because YOU ALLOW them to, by agreeing to their permission requests.
According to Facebook’s Permission Reference directory for developers, some apps might ask you for permission to see your likes, photos, videos, basic info or the “extended” permissions to publish posts on your behalf; read the messages in your Facebook inbox, and even access your friends’ data , such as their current location, photos, family and relationship status etc. And app developers may even change the app permissions after a while.
But, but… what about my Facebook privacy?
Ok. You really want to use an app. Everybody is using it, so why shouldn’t you? Maybe you can overlook the basic info requests, but what about the request to track your friends – would they approve?
Look at the issue from another angle: one of your friends uses an app that requested permission to access your data. And your oblivious friend grants it. Now, even though you’re not using the app, your private data and Facebook behaviour is still tracked by app developers, companies and/or advertisers.
Want to protect your Facebook privacy? Here's some advice:
- 1. Research the app before you install it. Simply “Google” the app and look for reviews from other users as well. If you’re ok with what’s said about it, then go ahead and install it.
- 2. Read carefully the permission requests. If everybody is using the app, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. Also, remember: “access my basic information” may vary according to what information app developers consider “basic”… for their needs.
- 3. Revisit the apps you’ve already approved. Go to your Facebook profile>> Privacy Settings>> Ads, Apps and Websites/ Edit Settings >> Apps you use/Edit settings. This way you can see exactly what the app has access to. If you’re not ok with the permissions, edit them (where you can) or just remove the more invasive apps. If you keep getting annoying requests or notifications from it, just block it: Privacy Settings>> Ads, Apps and Websites/ Edit Settings >> Blocked People&Apps >> Manage blocking.
- 4. Check what apps have access to your private information on a regular basis. You can use the path mentioned above to get to the “Apps you use” on Facebook, or if you prefer a quicker way to find out who gained access to your personal info, use the MyPermissions free tool (you can use it to “scan” every social network account you have, not only Facebook). You can also block your friends’ installed apps from accessing your information, by going to Privacy Settings>> Ads, Apps and Websites/ Edit Settings >> How people bring your info to apps they use >> Edit Settings, or simply use App Block, another free service.
- 5. Beware of rogue apps. Scammers devise fake apps that appear to be new Facebook features or functionalities (ex.: “Who viewed your profile”) to ask for permissions to certain info (as part of survey scams) and/or spam other users with links promoting it. In such cases, a Link Scanner like the one in BullGuard Internet Security would be more than useful in flagging out such Facebook threats.
How comfortable are you with the permissions requested by social apps? Do you see them as major privacy invaders?