Thursday, February 4, 2010

Facebook Privacy - Friends Using Applications Like Mafia Wars Can Allow Access To Your Information

"Watch out for Facebook applications - the thousands of programs and services made available through the site. If you play a Facebook game like the popular Mafia Wars, you’re providing a lot of basic personal data to Zynga Game Network Inc., which runs the game. In addition, if a friend uses an application, he shares information about all his friends, including you. Click on “Applications and Websites’’ to block friends from passing data to strangers."
- Boston Globe - Privacy still a nagging concern on Facebook

I have always been deeply suspicious about games and applications on Facebook. It didn't make a lot of sense to me to click "allow" when it comes to "answer 20 questions about your friend". Why does answer 20 questions need access to my pictures or my videos? Why do the applications need access to my personal information - unless they are going to use it somehow. Even though I click on NO to most everything for external applications, my friends don't. And I'm friends with my young teen daughter and some of her friends. They click on every application you can think of. Until the new privacy settings came along a month or two ago my information was fully exposed to all their fun...

I didn't ever think of Facebook as private. As a computer and internet guy for 27 years, personally, I would trust half the porn sites out there to keep my information private before I would trust Facebook or any of the applications running on it.

So I have always treated anything I put on Facebook as essentially an open book. That someone I don't know and/or don't really want looking at my shit will be looking at it or have access to it. That anything I put on Facebook will eventually become public. And that any privacy settings I define are only about as useful as a low picket fence around my yard is to keep out intruders.

The bottom line? Anything you put on Facebook is not private. Don't put anything you would want to keep private on Facebook. Assume anything on Facebook is open to the entire world. Period. Full stop.

Oh, and another thing, the article I have linked to above says:

"Of course, many of my “friends’’ are indeed strangers, techies, and business folk I barely know. I’m probably telling them too much about myself. Too late, I’ve discovered a solution - Facebook’s “limited profile’’ feature. This lets you create a special category of friends who get much less access to your information. You set it up on the main Friends page, then go to Privacy to pick out which bits of data to conceal."

I just spent 20 minutes looking through all my privacy settings for the limited profile settings and couldn't find it. I will be emailing the author to get directions - if you find it - let me know please.

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