Facebook Privatization: What Applications Can See About You

Sometime around the end of August 2009 the American Civil Liberties Union released a Facebook application called “What Do Quizzes Really Know About You?“.  The purpose of the application was to give the user a quiz regarding the privacy of their accounts.  This was followed up with an offer to join a petition to get Facebook to provide full control to each piece of the information you provide to the site as well as allowing you to select what you share with an application you install.

The majority of user’s who choose to install an application do not realize the privacy they are giving up by doing so. When you do allow an application access to your account you are accepting the following statement: “Allowing <application name> access will let it pull your profile information, photos, your friends’ info, and other content that it requires to work.” That’s a quote.

Before December 9th, 2009, you were able to completely block out what applications could see about you if your friends added them to their profile. However after that you were no longer able to fully opt-out of sharing information with applications that your friends installed. Here’s a screenshot of what it used to look like. (Source of screenshot) Click on the image for a full size view.

Since December 9th, this is what the privatization page has looked like:

That means that applications that your friends use can access your stuff. And Facebook allowed them to access MORE of it by limiting what you can hide.

How can you change your settings for what applications can see? First go here: Privacy Settings -> Applications and Websites

I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t share. But my opinion is that there seems to be no purpose besides making Facebook more money by having any of these selected.

Besides having deleted all of my status updates for the past year and 5 months (previous to 01/01/2009 I can’t access my own status updates) I’ve removed all information on my profile that isn’t publicly available other places (like on this blog).

I’ll leave this quote with you from Jeff Jarvis’ BuzzMachine “Confusing *a* public with *the* public”:

In Facebook, we get to create our publics. In Twitter, we decide which publics to join. But neither is the public sphere; neither entails publishing to everyone. Yet Facebook is pushing us more and more to publish to everyone and when it does, we lose control of our publics. That, I think, is the line it crossed.


This is second in a series of privatizing how-to’s for Facebook. Please see the rest here: Facebook Privacy