Have your checked your Facebook privacy page recently? Seen The Social Network movie? If so, you may become concerned about app, game and website marketers’ knowledge of your personal information. Facebook explains its privacy policies under “Controlling What You Share” Today I checked out my own privacy settings because I became concerned about the huge number of Zynga game-related posts appearing on my profile page. If you click on “edit profile,” you won’t find the app, game and website settings. First, click on “Account,” then “Privacy Settings.” Once at your privacy page, select “Apps and Settings” and “Edit your Settings,” taking you to the “Apps, Games and Settings” privacy page.
Facebook Privacy Choices for Apps
Now…take a deep breath…your next Facebook privacy selections are:
- Apps You Use (only shows a few until you click on more). After clicking on “Edit Settings, FB lets you review and change some of each app’s privacy settings. They’re NINE; all are required except the last few to use the app.
- Access to my basic information (Includes name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends, and any other information shared with friends, friends of friends, etc.)
- Send me email
- Access my profile information (Likes, Music, TV, Movies, Books, Quotes, About Me, Activities, Interests, Groups, Events, Notes, Birthday, Hometown, Current City, Website, Religious and Political Views, Education History, Work History and Facebook Status)
- Access my contact information (online/offline)
- Access my family and relationships (Significant Other, Relationship Details, Family Members and Relationship Status)
- Access to my photos and videos (Photos and Videos Uploaded by Me and Photos and Videos of Me)
- Access my friends’ information (Birthdays, Religious and Political Views, Family Members and Relationship Statuses, Significant Others and Relationship Details, Hometowns, Current Cities, Likes, Music, TV, Movies, Books, Quotes, Activities, Interests, Education History, Work History, Online Presence, Websites, Groups, Events, Notes, Photos, Videos, Photos and Videos of Them, ‘About Me’ Details and Facebook Statuses)
- Post to my wall (NetworkedBlogs may post status messages, notes, photos, and videos to my Wall–optional)
- Access my data anytime (NetworkedBlogs may access my data when I’m not using the application–optional)
Make sure to click on the x next to “Remove unwanted or spammy apps.” Surely, no one wants those. I noticed in looking at the 36 apps I use or have used (some haven’t been touched in six months or more) that apps found on multiple devices, like my iPad, are also listed. Therefore if you connect apps on your iPhone, iPad or other mobile device to your Facebook account, the privacy policies of each app (Slate, Pulse, Skyfire, etc.) get merged into your Facebook App permissions. In any case, you’re not only giving permission for marketers to access your information; you’re allowing your friends’ private information released for each application. And the two primary opt-out ones are usually authorizing data access anytime and accessing posts in newsfeeds. If you don’t remove the last one, the app provider can scan your wall posts for relevant keywords reflecting your personal tastes, political views and more.
App and Website Information Accessible Through Your Friends
But, there’s more… This Facebook Privacy section is the information YOU allow your FRIENDS to release to apps and websites ABOUT YOU when THEY use them. The previous section was information released TO YOU about your friends. I know, clear as mud. This Facebook page resembles a medical health history form. Beneath the App section is “Info accessible through your friends.” Click on “Edit Settings.” FB first tries to amuse us with these instructions: “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.” I haven’t the foggiest notion how your friends sharing information with marketers will improve your “social experience.” Maybe Zynga is considering launching an Amish religion version of FarmVille and wants to offer an adult baptismal font next to the duck pond. But it’s your choice. Choose what you want your friends to send to marketers:
- Bio, Birthday, Family Relationships
- Interested In and Looking For (hmmm…)
- Religious and Political Views
- My website
- If I’m online
- My Photos and Videos
- My Links and My Notes
- Photos and Videos I’m Tagged In
- Hometown and Current City
- Education and Work
- Activities, Interest, Things I Like
- Places I Check Into
Whew…But what prevents a friend from including any of the above information in a gift message while playing Mafia Wars? Does Facebook scan every message about energy and goods in CityVille?
Game and App Activity
This one gets a bit tricky. Now that you’ve restricted information coming from the keyboards of you and your friends to watchful marketers, you must click several times to restrict games or apps you’ve recently used. However, the drop down menu choices are only “everyone, friends of friends, friends only and customize.” So if you don’t want to let anyone but yourself know the games or apps you use, you have to click on “customize,” and “make this visible only to me.”
Facebook Instant Personalization
This one relates to visiting Facebook partner websites that “customize your experience.” “Our goal is to give you a great social and personalized experience with every app and website you use. We’ve worked with a select set of partners to personalize your experience as soon as you arrive on their sites. These partner sites (currently limited to Bing, TripAdvisor, Clicker, Rotten Tomatoes, Docs, Pandora, Yelp, and Scribd), can only access the information and content you’ve already made available to everyone. All our partners are required to respect your information and we’ve worked closely with them to make sure they do.” I certainly hope so. I’d hate to have a de-personalized experience on a website that shows me a picture of Donald Duck if everyone already knows I hate Donald Duck. When you click on this one, a video pops up and a youngish lady tells you how your Web experience is enhanced with this feature. Dare uncheck the paragraph and you’re advised to click on “learn more” about social plugins.
Last but not least is public search. Yes, you can inform Facebook whether you want Google and the search engines to index information you and your friends write on the site.
Facebook Privacy Recommendations
- In our non-private world where personal information is already hidden in databanks controlled by the IRS, FBI, NSA, not to mention credit bureaus and other corporations, I recommend caution. Facebook now has over 600 MILLION members, 70% of whom live outside the United States. If you don’t want your innermost secrets shared with someone in Afghanistan, don’t key it into Facebook.
- As reported by the Wall Street Journal and others in the past few months, marketers are placing tracking cookies on people’s hard disks as they surf the Web. Your personal information follows you from site to site to build a behavioral profile of your interests, buying patterns and more. A smart move is to install a plugin called “Ghostery” if you use Firefox, Chrome or Internet Explorer. The program blocks most tracking cookies.
- Some companies and services, such as Amazon’s Kindle iPad app, have no right to some of the information. Block them.
- When you click “like” on a Facebook group page, such as Samsung Mobile, or something else you enjoy on Facebook, remember that Facebook is tracking your preferences for advertisers.
- Facebook and marketing company’s claim that information collected doesn’t identify individual users is ludicrous. As tracking technology improves, they’re only so many people in Omaha who are 30 years old, married, play golf and like sky jumping. Some marketing information companies even specialize in correlating the data.
In an age of social networking, increasingly using mobile phones, protecting your private information is critical.