What Facebook Apps Really Know About You

connect with facebook buttonYou’ve probably heard the news that Facebook Applications do have access to your data, but doesn’t anyone who can view your profile have access to your public data anyways?

It’s not new news that applications have access to your data, but no one had previously presented it the way the Wall Street Journal did last week, as a massive Facebook privacy breach. This article wrongfully hinted that there was a possible hack, hole or exploit in Facebook itself. While applications can have access to your account information through your user ID, it was the fact that app developers were beginning to sell or transmit these user IDs to other companies that triggered the Wall Street Journal to investigate.

The real issue here is not a hack or exploit, but a violation of Facebook developer terms of service, as they agree not to sell or transmit any user data. Facebook has a history of blocking and unblocking apps that violated the terms of service, so no, Facebook wasn’t in on this scheme.

You as a user may not think twice when you click ‘Connect with Facebook’ to a third party application like Farmville, but essentially you are granting that application access to information such as your wall, news feed and personal description among other parts of your profile. Hitting the button may have become second nature to us, but the data accessed after doing so still remains highly personal.

How do you protect your data from third-party applications?

If you like using applications on Facebook, only grant them access while you need them, and revoke access after you’re done using them. To remove access, click Privacy Settings under your account and you will see ‘Edit your settings’ to the bottom left under ‘Applications and Websites.’ Here, you can revoke account access to any application which you are no longer using.

Not using Super Poke anymore? Remove its access to your profile. Keeping up-to-date with the applications that have access to your account at any such time is always a good idea to ensure that you’re only granting access to the most important applications. Once removed, the application can no longer access any more of your data.

One catch on this is that although you can revoke further access to your account by any given app, Facebook can’t guarantee that a deleted app will remove data you have previously shared with it. Given how many of us have predictable passwords, this shared data could conceivably aid hackers in compromising your account

While you can’t always undo an action you previously took on a social media site, there is no reason why you can’t regain control of your data starting today. It is always a good idea to have a Facebook backup to protect you and your data no matter what else happens on your account.