Facebook App Privacy: Control how your data is shared

This post was featured on BlogHerI wanted to write an article called “The Ten Minute Facebook Privacy Check-up” or “How to control your Facebook privacy settings in 5 easy steps”. But I found that reviewing all Facebook privacy settings is going to take longer than 10 minutes. So I figured I’d break it down, feature by feature. Maybe one day I’ll combine them all together for a comprehensive guide. The minute I do, I’m sure Facebook will make changes to make it obsolete!

So first let’s tackle Apps and Websites. As you may know, Facebook isn’t just Facebook. Facebook connects with other websites and apps in many ways. The information (data) you enter in Facebook can be used by other services. So go through the following steps to find out what you’re sharing outside of Facebook and how to prevent Facebook from sharing too much data.

Let’s get started. You may want to print this page to refer to as you go through the steps.

1. Click the little arrow next to the word “Home” at the upper right of Facebook. From the drop-down menu choose “Privacy Settings”. This takes you to the Privacy Settings page.

2. Scroll down and find Ads, Apps, and Websites. Click Edit Settings.

Facebook App settings

3. Now you’re on the page to choose your Privacy Settings for Ads, Apps and Websites. There’s a lot here so take the time to read the page. (This is why it takes longer than 10 minutes!) The page has several options. We’ll be looking at the first two: Apps you Use, and How people bring your info into the apps they use (yes, they can do that!)

Apps you Use – Remove old apps and limit data sharing

1. Click Edit Settings next to Apps you use. You’ll have a list of all the apps you’ve already authorized to interact with your Facebook account. You may be surprised with how many you see listed here! I had eighteen.

2. Click the x to remove any apps you are no longer using. Then confirm. As shown here, I deleted Yelp and checked “Delete all app activity”.

Deleting the Yelp app

3. For each app that remains, click Edit. This reveals the details of the app. As an example, I authorized the Scrabble app. Shown below are my app settings for Scrabble.

My Scrabble App settings

4. For each app you will see the following information.

  • Data the app needs to function – This shows you the Facebook data made available to the app in addition to your Basic information.* Some apps only need your e-mail address, or perhaps your current city, which seems reasonable. But notice how much data Scrabble “needs” – not sure why my religious and political views are needed! This app seems to be pulling a lot of data for a simple word game. Keep in mind the apps can only pull data you’vechosen to enter. * Note that also, according to Facebook Help, “your name, profile picture, gender, username, user ID (account number) and networks are visible to everyone. Also, by default, apps have access to your friends list and any information you choose to share with everyone.”
  • What the app can also do – This lets you know if the app can look at your data even when you’re not using the app. If you can’t think of any reason this would be useful to you, you can remove that option by clicking the x. (Which I did for Scrabble right after taking the screenshot).
  • The last data access– This tells you the data that was actually shared. When you click for more, you’ll see an “access log” for the last 90 days. This gives you an idea of what data the app is really using.App Access log
  • Posts on your behalf – This lets you decide the audience for the posts or updates this app places on your Timeline or profile. This is one of the most important settings! If you take away one nugget of info from this article please remember this! You want to make sure this is set to “Friends” and not “Everyone”. You can keep your app activity private by choosing “Only Me”. If you don’t want your friends to see that you’re playing Scrabble or Farmville or listening to music all day on Spotify while you should be working, please for the sake of Facebook friendships change this to “Only Me”!App privacy audience settings
  • Notifications – decide when to receive notifications from the app.

How people bring your info to apps they use

We’re almost done – but this next step is important so hang in with me to the end. Once you’ve finished reviewing your apps, go back to Privacy SettingsAds, Apps and Websites. Click “Edit Settings” next to “How people bring your info to apps they use”. You may be wondering, why can anyone bring YOUR info into THEIR apps? I don’t have a good answer for that, but you can LIMIT the exposure.

You’ll see the categories of data that can potentially be shared. Choose what you’re comfortable with. Maybe you don’t mind sharing your birthday in case a friend uses an app that reminds them to send birthday cards. I keep mine ALL UNCHECKED. Once you’re done, click Save Changes.

Pick and choose categories of data others can bring into Apps

That’s the basic overview of app privacy. For more detailed information you can visit Facebook Help. Remember Facebook can only share the information that you provide. You’ll want to go back every few months to review in case you’ve authorized new apps. And parents sit down with your teens and help them with their app settings too.

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About Jean

Hi! I'm a webmaster, technology educator and creator of Be Web Smart. I hope you found this article useful. If you are new here, you might like to sign up for e-mail updates, view Links and Resources on similar topics, and subscribe to the RSS feed.