The Wall Street Journal exposed yet another privacy issue for Facebook users last week. This time it involves sharing of data by some of the popular applications that Facebook users enjoy like Farmville and Texas Holdem Poker. Not a little thing since Farmville has about 60 million current users. As it turns out the subject applications were sharing Facebook IDs with advertising and tracking companies.
Let’s back up a bit. Is there a place for social networking sites like Facebook? As I’ve said before, I use it and the fact that over 500 million others do is indicative of the need for such sites. Are there privacy issues with Facebook and other social networking sites? Absolutely! Just as there are risks to banking online and making purchases online; but we have to decide what price convenience and then take some personal responsibility for our security.
So what can we do to make ourselves as safe as possible on Facebook? Start by getting informed and take charge of your security to the degree that you can. Open your Facebook home page and click on Accounts then choose “Privacy Settings” from the dropdown menu. Prepare to spend 30 minutes to an hour reviewing every aspect of your privacy settings, especially if you accepted the normal default settings when you set up your account. I want you to go through the “Basic Directory Information”/ View settings and answer each question again. Then go to the “Sharing on Facebook” section/ Customize Settings and do it again. For example, click on your” Posts by me” and choose to share with Everyone, Friends of Friends, Friends Only or further customize; Block so and so.
Now to get to the current privacy issue (privacy leaks in applications) look to the bottom left of the “Choose Your Privacy” settings page and click on” Edit your settings”. Under “Applications you use” you’ll see an option to “Remove unwanted or spammy apps” and also a “Turn off all platform apps” link. First look under the Remove option and see if you are using any apps that you want to keep, for example the “Birthday Calendar”. If you aren’t currently using any apps, then choose “Turn off all”. If you want to keep some apps and exclude all others, just eliminate the ones you don’t want. Then click edit settings by each of the apps that you do keep. From these pages you can see what information is required for the chosen app to run. If you are uncomfortable with any of the requirements, then go back and turn off the app.
Lastly, use some common sense with what you post and what your children/grandchildren are allowed to post. “If you wouldn’t want your Mama to see something, then maybe you should think twice before you post.” Sage advice!