Saturday, July 31, 2010

Blocking Friends' FB Apps From Accessing Your Data

In the last Facebook "note" I wrote, I mentioned that applications used by friends but not yourself can nevertheless access YOUR data; that this is dangerous, and that it's more than a little questionably legal. Well they can. Here are some measures towards blocking those applications from accessing your data.

Method 1
In your "profile" page go to "Applications" (in the left hand sidebar) and you'll be able to see a statement that says
"To control how your friends see your activity, click here.".
This will take you to the
"Choose Your Privacy SettingsApplications, Games and Websites"
page, where you can see all kinds of things, including
"What you're using"
(I had apps in there I never approved, but friends had, even more fishy), but most importantly
Info accessible through your friends

described as
Control what information is available to applications and websites when your friends use them.
Choose "Edit Settings", and you'll be confronted with the following pop-up dialogue,

Info accessible through your friends

Use the settings below to control which of your information is available to applications, games and websites when your friends use them. The more info you share, the more social the experience.
Note: your name, profile picture, gender, networks and user ID (along with any other information you've set to everyone) is available to friends' applications unless you turn off platform applications and websites.

Don't you love the "info shared through your friends" and "the more you share, the more social the experience". Did YOU, the user, share the info, or did Facebook, using "your friends" as a scapegoat to "share through", that is, accusing YOU the user of "sharing through them", despitfde that you didn't? Hmmm... Then we could rant on the "more social the experience" psycho-dribble, but that's not the point of this blog.

I bet most Facebook users don't even know about this functionality, either the "sharing through your friends" or the ability to turn it off to a large extent (at least supposedly). The settings seen in the text above for editing these settings is what I confronted when I found it, none of which I've ever chosen or edited before. Here's those settings after I've personally gotten through with making choices,

Much better. Who ever heard of an agreement where by those you know entering into a contract with someone (in this case, with apps makers), YOUR information became accessible to the apps makers by virtue of knowing those people? Again, on the legal end there's more than a little fishy here. Don't get me wrong, overall Facebook is neat, socially useful, and so on, but it's more than a little shady in too many areas to be anything less than critical while using its platform. Be careful.

Method 2
Click on the "Account" button in the top-right corner of the Facebook screen, go to "Privacy Settings", and in the bottom-left corner of that screen (in tiny text) you can click "Edit your settings" in

Applications and Websites
Edit your settings for using applications, games and websites.
and arrive at the "
Choose Your Privacy SettingsApplications, Games and Websites" screen mentioned under "Method 1", and proceed from there as you would in Method . 

Note that if you were to click the "Applications Settings" button under that "Account" menu you'll arrive at an "Applications Settings - Recently Used" screen, and nothing to do with actually choosing setttings for privacy dealing with applications: all the most obvious selections are those which have nothing to do with data privacy against the back-end (app makers who build their wares on the Facebook platform), which for much of the user's interest composes one of the primary areas of privacy and data concern. It's either a method that relies on a line that just seems to have been begrudgingly inserted under the screen arrived at by selecting "Applications" from the left side-bar, or else taking notice of tiny print under a prominent box of settings for other features; sure, users may want to make restrictions on their data for certain of their accepted conteacts ("Friends"), but if they've accepted someone as a Friend on Facebook, someone they know, I doubt it's that person whom they know, rather than people they don't, they're most worried about.

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