In a recent post on my personal blog, I discussed all of the things that Facebook shares with 3rd party companies when you participate in those online quizzes, or give people bumper stickers, play Mafia Wars, or whatever else you may be doing on Facebook. What I didn’t really discuss was: what you can do about it.
The easiest and first thing to look at is your “Application Settings” page. You can get there by clicking the “Account” drop down on the top right of any page while you’re logged in to facebook, then clicking the “Application Settings” option. Once there, you can see a list of the programs you have used in the last month. On the top of that page, there is a “SHOW” drop down, which has other sorting options.
I like to sort by different categories to try and figure out how many applications really have access to my information. Remember, you’re not just filling out a quiz, you’re allowing the company that made the quiz application to access all kinds of information, both while you’re taking the quiz, and forever after. You may also be giving them the option to post comments on your wall, your friends’ walls, and who knows what else. Once sorted, you can find programs that you may not want to give permission to anymore and just click the “X” in the far right column. The fewer applications with permission to access your information, the better off you are!
Also recently in the news, many users of have responded to the opt-in / opt-out privacy settings proposed by Facebook. Facebook claims they’re trying to provide more information to your friends, but they’re mostly out trying to get more application developers and advertisers onboard, harvesting all of the information about you and your friends in the name of the almighty dollar. But to the average user, none of this “opt-in” and “opt-out” crap makes much sense. There is even enough of a threat to your personal information that even several United States Senators are considering legal action against Facebook.
These “opt in / opt out” privacy settings are really the full control, what you allow your friends to see, what you allow non friends to see, what you allow people searching Facebook to see, what search engines can see when they save your information to their search engines (you know, when you search your own name on Google and your Facebook page shows up). There are a ton of settings, but take them one page at a time and you can really decide how secretive you want to be.
Facebook, by default, “opts” to share a lot of your personal information. To begin your private information embargo, click on Account on the upper right of a page, then click Privacy Settings. It will take you to a main page of different privacy categories. Let’s start with “Profile Information.”
On each page, you can choose whether you want your information shared ONLY with your friends, Friends of your friends, friends and your networks, or everyone. You can also “customize it” even more, and choose to hide specific information from specific people, if you desire.
Once you’re done with your Profile Information page, go back to the Privacy Settings page (remember, click the Account button on the top right, then choose Privacy Settings). Now choose another category, and decide what you’re willing to share with everyone in each of those categories.
This will take some time, and maybe some people don’t care, but I for one don’t want my phone number showing up on Google, or maybe you don’t want to deal with a jealous ex, or some company sending you junk mail. There are all kinds of reasons to reclaim as much of your Facebook privacy as you can.