Facebook Privacy and Security Settings: Apps and Adverts

If you haven’t done so, please read the previous article Facebook Privacy and Security Settings: Notifications, Mobile, Followers

Now, on to Apps and Adverts…

Getting Started

  1. Go to your timeline (click on your name in the blue bar at the very top)
  2. Click "Privacy shortcuts" (the little padlock icon)
  3. From the bottom of the list, click "See More Settings"
Finding Your Facebook Settings

App settings

From the left-hand menu, click "Apps"

Read the first paragraph:

On Facebook, your name, profile picture, cover photo, gender, networks, username, and user ID are always publicly available, including to apps. Apps also have access to your friends list and any information you choose to make public.

When you install an app, it will ask for for access to certain information, make sure you read what it is asking for access to! Many apps ask for access to more than just your public information and they also ask to be able to post to your Timeline (and sometimes even message your friends) on your behalf. If you don’t want the app to have access to this info and/or create activity automatically, don’t install it.

We will walk through the settings in this section, but I strongly recommend you read the Facebook policy about Other websites and applications.

Apps you use

Platform is on—This setting allows apps you use and websites you visit access to some of your information (as outlined in the paragraph above) automatically, and more information if you choose to allow it. You can turn "Platform" off and no apps or websites will be able to access your information, but you also won’t be able to use any Facebook apps or do things like share articles directly from websites, etc.

App settings: Platform

Should you choose to leave Platform on, you will see a list of apps you currently have installed and you will see what information those apps have access to.

  • Visibility of app: Choose who can see that you are using this app
  • This app needs: You cannot modify this setting; if you are not comfortable with the info this app has access to, your only choice is to remove it (see below)
  • This app can also: If you aren’t comfortable with any of the things listed here, you can remove them by clicking the "X"
  • Last data access: Tells you the last time the app accessed your information
  • When to notify you?: You can turn off this app’s notifications by setting this to "Never"
  • Legal: A link to the app’s Privacy Policy on the app’s webpage
App settings: Settings

If you want to remove an app, click the "Remove" link

App settings: Remove

When you confirm that you want to remove the app, you can additionally remove any Facebook activity that the app generated on your behalf (so people don’t see you spent 742 hours playing Zombie Farm Words or whatever it was you were playing).

App settings: Remove activity

When you install an app

You will be notified about what information the app will have access to and what it will want to "do on your behalf"—READ WHAT IT IS GOING TO DO BEFORE YOU INSTALL THE APP. Software developers know people don’t read instructions; I know this because I’m a software developer and I do usability testing and I watch people click ‘OK’ without reading what they are agreeing to every day. It is completely within the realm of possibility that you are agreeing to release all of your personal information and all of your Friends’ information (that you have access to) to the app company. It’s also completely within the realm of possibility that you are agreeing to let the app invite all of your Friends to join you and/or e-mail them and/or post something to your Timeline to the effect of, "Michael is now playing Zombie Scrabble Plant Apocalypse and loving it!"

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but almost all of the "hacking" I see on Facebook is really just people clicking stuff, not reading anything, and not realising what the consequences will be.

Apps others use

While your Friends are busy playing Scrabble with Zombie Plants and surfing Ashley Bing Zynga, Facebook is plugging away in the background, delivering the app or website any information about you to which your Friends have access. Your Friends will be delivering your basic info whether you like it or not, but this info is Public and is being shared by Facebook anyway. However, anything that remains unchecked within the following check boxes is also information about you being shared by your Friends when they use apps or websites that make use of the Facebook Platform. I like to uncheck all of these boxes.

App settings: Apps others use

Instant personalisation

Imagine you go to a website like TripAdvisor and the moment you arrive they greet you by saying, "Hey Michael! How was your trip to Jamaica last year? Your friend Susan went to Barbados and loved it, would you like to see some pictures of her trip?" Would you find that cool or über creepy? If you said cool, go ahead and leave Instant Personalization on; if you said creepy, uncheck that box as fast as you can. This is the mechanism by which Facebook will give your information to third-party partners without even asking you (technically, this setting is where they are asking you). Again, I’m fortunate to live in Canada where this setting is "Not yet available"—phew!

Old versions of Facebook for mobile

Exactly what you think it is; if you have an older Blackberry or some such device that is using an outdated version of Facebook, you can control the privacy setting of posts made from that device (or you could go buy an iPhone and be like Mike!).

Facebook Adverts

From the left-hand menu, click "Adverts"

Third Party Sites

"Facebook does not give third party applications or advert networks the right to use your name or picture in adverts."… they forgot to add "YET". Don’t be surprised if one day you’re surfing the net and you see a picture of yourself in an ad that says, "Michael prefers Clotrimazole Anti-Fungal to all other jock itch creams!" If you don’t want this to happen to you, click "Edit" then select "No one" from the drop-down and click "Save Changes"

App settings: Ads from other sites

Ads & Friends

I’m pretty sure my happily married Friend did not "Like" Zoosk on Facebook (or if she did, it wasn’t on purpose). Yet Facebook is telling me she likes it. You know what else it’s telling me? Anything you do to interact with any company who is paying to advertise on Facebook. It’s telling me all about how you like Capital One and that you played David Bowie’s new single. So how do you stop it? Click "Edit" then select "No one" from the drop-down and click "Save Changes".

App settings: Facebook ads

Payments and Support

These settings are straightforward and don’t really apply to security or privacy, so I’m not going to cover them in this article.

So, do you think Facebook should rename the links in the sidebar "Apps Privacy" and "Adverts Privacy"? Me too!

Did you find this helpful? Is there something you’d like to see covered that isn’t here? Did I make a mistake or give bad information? Let me know in the comments below, feedback is appreciated!

Next article: Facebook Privacy and Security Settings: Testing Your Settings

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