// Internet Duct Tape

Facebook Applications and Privacy – How to Configure Facebook Applications

Posted in Facebook, Online Privacy and Reputation Management, Technology by engtech on July 23, 2007

One of my friends wanted to secure the profile for her 17 year old daughter and she was asking me what the heck all the application privacy settings mean on Facebook. I didn’t have a good answer for her. If I’m asking myself “wtf does that application setting mean?” I figure there’s more than one other person in the crowd with a dim light bulb over their head. Here’s what I could figure out to the best of my knowledge.

Now you too can become one of the 1% of the people on Facebook who understand how their Facebook apps (widgets) are configured.

facebook application privacy levels

Adding an Application

I was surprised that Facebook does not give more information on what these options mean when you’re installing an application. I know that designing “simple” user interfaces is hard, but you are doing something wrong when your users have to go to such great lengths to do something as simple as adjust your privacy settings.

Know who I am and access my information

This option has to be checked in order to install ANY application. This is Facebook’s way of covering their ass.

cover your ass
(photo by ambergris)

Put a box in my profile

If this is unchecked then the application won’t show up on your profile at all, but may still spam your mini-feed and news feed.

(photo by ugandan giant)

Place a link in my left-hand navigation

On your left hand menu under Search there is a list of your application that only you can see. Clicking on these links usually shows you cool stuff like recent updates from your friends who use the same apps. This setting controls whether or not this app shows up in that list.

facebook application privacy left hand menu link settings

This setting only affects how you see your applications.

Publish stories in my News Feed and Mini-Feed

This is the “spam the crap out of your friends” feature. TURN THIS OFF FOR MOST OF YOUR APPLICATIONS! The mini-feed is that list of things you’ve been doing on your profile page. The news feed is the list of things you’ve been doing that shows up to all of your friends when they log into Facebook. Do you really want to spam them with every single thing you Digg, Stumble or save to Del.icio.us?

facebook privacy application mini-feed newsfeed

You can adjust the mini-feed and the news feed individually by editing your application settings later.

Place a link below the profile picture on any profile

Underneath your profile picture there is a text list of your applications. These links can display additional information like the number of songs you have added, pages you have bookmarked, etc. If you have a lot of applications this list can become unwieldy, so try to limit it to your five favorite applications.

facebook application privacy profile

Adjusting the Privacy Settings

Some applications (particularly the ones created by Facebook) have application specific privacy settings that you can adjust from within your “application privacy options” or by editing your application settings. I don’t know why they didn’t make it consistent for all applications.

Editing the settings of an application will give you the following extra option that weren’t available when you first added it.

Control who can see the application on your profile

This is a standard drop down choice between everyone, all your networks, some of your networks, your friends, yourself, or no one. If you chose not to have a box in your profile when you added the application then this will be set to “no one”.

Individual control of mini-feed and news feed setting

When you are adding a new application there is only one setting for mini-feed and news feed. If you edit the application later you will be able to have different settings for your mini-feed and news feed (which is a good thing — have lots of updates on the mini-feed but not as many on your news feed so you don’t spam your friends).

facebook application privacy news feed setting

Applications and Limited Profile

You can control which of the official Facebook apps are shown on your limited profile under Privacy Options >> Limited Profile. As far as I can tell unofficial apps never show on your limited profile (or maybe they always show and there is no way to turn them off).

Control the Information Given to Third Party Applications

Under Privacy Options >> Applications >> Other Applications you can control what other applications can find out about you when you don’t have them installed (IE: if your friends have them installed). I highly recommend leaving most of the boxes unchecked. The only way you can disable ANY information from leaking out to your friends’ applications is by removing all of your applications first.

Blocking Applications

Did you know that you can block specific applications from contacting you or showing up in the news feed? You have to go to the application page and then chose Block Application. You do not need to install the application to do this. Yes, this means you can stop people from trying to bug you with those zombie/vampire apps.

Removing Applications and the Information Inside of Them

If you remove an application it does NOT delete any of the information inside that application. If you uploaded photos, videos or posted a note then all of that information will still be there unless you delete it inside of the application before removing an application. Good news: you can remove an app and then re-add it later on and be right back where you started. Bad news: it’s harder to get rid of embarrassing/incriminating info than just “removing the application”.

5 Things to Remember

    1. Don’t spam your friends — turn off the news feed for applications that update frequently
    2. Too many links — turn off profile links for applications other than your favorites
    3. Control who can see it — there’s no good reason to share apps with your networks instead of just your friends
    4. Delete THEN remove — you have to delete the information inside an app before removing it
    5. Stop being annoyed — block the applications you don’t like

      The Facebook applications privacy settings are pretty danged complicated, and in usual Facebook style the controls to access them are all over the place. But now you know what the different settings do and have an idea of how you can use them. Blocking annoying applications can make the site a lot less annoying, and you can control your own settings to keep from spamming the crap out of your friends. The only real gotcha is that you need to delete embarrassing information from an application before you remove the application.


      “Be sure to customize your privacy settings on the Privacy page if you are uncomfortable being found in searches or having your profile viewed by people from your school, workplace or regional network. Remember, unless you’re prepared to attach something in your profile to a resume or scholarship application, don’t post it.” — Official Facebook Safety page

      Did you find this page useful? Then help spread the word by sharing it on Facebook, del.icio.us, StumbleUpon or other sites.

      Related Posts

      38 Responses

      Subscribe to comments with RSS.

      1. Ross said, on July 24, 2007 at 12:07 am

        Really, really well done. Kudos. I’m (intentionally) sharing this w/ my Facebook friends.

      2. "Facebook 101" from Capital PR said, on July 24, 2007 at 6:04 pm

        […] haven’t really taken the time to go through the various settings and applications, check out this post on Internet Duct […]

      3. TumbleMark said, on July 31, 2007 at 11:57 am

        […] Facebook Applications and Privacy – How to Configure Facebook Applications « Internet Duct Tape […]

      4. KR said, on August 03, 2007 at 6:04 pm

        Nice acticle. Do you know if you can develop a Facebook widget/application so that it is always set to PRIVACY SETTING of Yourself or No One?

        We have a widget that is intended to be for personal use, but not to be accessible for others (e-commerce widget). It works out well for iGoogle since that is designed to be only for personal viewing, but Facebook and MySpace present a different issue.

      5. Ian from www.thenews said, on August 04, 2007 at 9:51 am

        Here’s another application to try out…http://apps.facebook.com/thenewsroom

      6. […] Facebook Applications Privacy Setting  […]

      7. Young and Facebook « ModernityBlog said, on August 06, 2007 at 6:43 pm

        […] And an article on Facebook privacy. […]

      8. Andrew said, on August 08, 2007 at 6:53 am

        Thanks a ton. They really should make it more obvious how to block applications. I was getting real tired of all those “vs” apps.

      9. engtech said, on August 09, 2007 at 3:46 pm


        I wish there was a way to turn off all application invites. I don’t care about using what other people are using.

        I have at least one friend who tries out every Facebook app and seems to latch on to the most annoying ones possible.

        I’ve seen a Greasemonkey script for Firefox that will turn off ALL applications when viewing other people’s profiles… it’s starting to sound like a good idea.

      10. Christopher Short said, on August 30, 2007 at 9:00 am

        You can’t turn off unofficial apps from appearing in your Limited Profile – they always appear. That sucks because there’s probably as much private information in them as in the official apps.

        There’s even a FB group about this.

      11. Mike said, on September 02, 2007 at 12:10 pm

        Is it possible to turn off the news feed of “Top movies/tv/etc in the X network”? I find such things really annoying, but I can’t seem to find a way to block them.

      12. engtech said, on September 05, 2007 at 12:28 am

        @Christopher Short:

        Thanks for the info about not being able to block unofficial apps on the limited profile. That sucks, but the whole limited profile thing sucks altogether.

        I hope that when they release the friends list feature then we’ll be able to build our own levels of group privacy and we can get rid of the limited profile altogether.

      13. engtech said, on September 05, 2007 at 1:23 am


        If you’re using Firefox, this userscript will get rid of the sponsor news feed items:

        Here’s more info on how to use a userscript if you’re unfamiliar with them:

      14. Mike said, on September 05, 2007 at 6:48 pm


        Thanks. That’s a nice userscript, and I’ve installed it, but it doesn’t actually get rid of what I was hoping to block. Instead of trying to get rid of sponsor news feeds, I was hoping to get rid of “Popular posted items in the {whatever} network”, “Popular videos in the {whatever} network”, etc. I really don’t care what other people at my school think is an interesting video/song/news item/blog post/whatever, and it seems like I’ve been bombarded with these in the past few weeks.

      15. engtech said, on September 07, 2007 at 1:18 am


        Unfortunately I don’t have examples of those “popular in network” spam in my newsfeeds. I must be in the wrong networks.

        Here’s a couple more userscripts that might do it:

      16. Pete Forsyth said, on September 07, 2007 at 11:19 am

        What I’m really interested in is exactly what information applictions have access to. I’d hope it’s limited to what is visible on your profile – i.e., that they can’t access your email address. Are there certain pieces of info that the Facebook API makes available, but others that it doesn’t?

        Good writeup overall though – thanks for looking into this and sharing what you found.

      17. engtech said, on September 07, 2007 at 12:47 pm

        @Pete Forsyth:

        From the policy it sounds like they can access profile information, but not contact information. The app developer documentation would give more info, but I haven’t dug into it.


      18. Angel said, on September 07, 2007 at 10:34 pm

        Thanks for your help!!
        However, I cannot remove the unwanted applications because there are errors when I click on the remove button…
        Then, what should I do?

      19. engtech said, on September 08, 2007 at 10:02 pm


        Try going to this link and removing applications from there:

        Which web browser do you use?

        What error do you get?

      20. kelly said, on September 20, 2007 at 5:10 am

        hi i can not send a message or see who is on line on facebook i use to have to keep going to refresh for me to be able to do anything but thats not working now what do i do ? thanx

      21. engtech said, on September 20, 2007 at 10:12 am


        Unfortunately I’ve never hit that issue before. Try contacting Facebook about the problem by clicking on this link (you should login to Facebook before clicking it):


        Make sure to tell them which web browsing software you use.

      22. kelly said, on September 20, 2007 at 11:55 am

        hia i went to the link you sent me to try and let facebook no but it will not let me send a message to them either i click on send message and it does nothing it says at the e end of page you have error?

      23. alan fisher said, on September 29, 2007 at 4:53 pm

        i cannot access anything on my facebook without getting a script error box up and i also cannot send any messages…simple help please not at all techie :( cheers in advance

      24. lauren said, on October 07, 2007 at 8:18 am

        Hey im having the same problem as kelly and alan, everytime i try and post something or write a msg it comes up as script error, although i have logged in and it says im online, i cant actually do anythig and i cant send a message to get help :S
        what to do?

      25. engtech said, on October 10, 2007 at 9:59 pm


        Sorry I can’t help you further with your Facebook scripting problem but I really don’t know anything about that error. It’s annoying that it’s preventing you from asking for help directly from them.

        Are you using Firefox or Internet Explorer? Can you respond to my email with a screenshot of the error? (Ctrl+PrintScreen button, then save that as an image and attach it to an email)

        I’m interested in figuring this one out since my site is #1 on google for facebook script error :)

      26. lauren said, on October 11, 2007 at 8:17 am

        I would love to figure this one out too :( I am currently using Maxathon web browser and have tried using Internet explorer and Firefox but always the same error comes up, it just comes up as script error on the bottom left hand of my screen,nothing happens, the message i wrote stays on the screen, and then the script error message disappears.I have even tried spamming the post button in rage lol but that doesnt work either

      27. lauren said, on October 11, 2007 at 8:25 am

        Have good news, i just downloaded Firefox again and its letting me post on Facebook, weird that some web browsers have issues with the site :( but it seems to be working so no more spamming the post button for me :P will let you know if it decides not to work. Thanks heaps for your help

      28. links for 2007-12-09 | Ed Tech Hacks said, on December 12, 2007 at 9:35 pm

        […] Facebook Applications and Privacy – How to Configure Facebook Applications « Internet Duct Tape (tags: facebook privacy) […]

      29. Ricardo Stuven said, on February 10, 2008 at 7:51 pm

        Dear Facebook, please limit third-party applications access to my profile:

      30. Martin Schiøtz said, on March 17, 2008 at 9:19 pm

        China is doing a very good work with some help from Microsoft trying to censure the internet in China. They are not finished yet…

        Maybe we can learn from that.

      31. […] הפרסומות, אבל לא פחות מכך, של המדיניות שלי. מאז שהתחלתי לחסום אפליקציות במקום סתם להתעלם, פייסבוק חזר להיות מקום של בזבוז זמן מהנה ולא […]

      32. sam said, on March 31, 2008 at 6:15 am

        hi there ppl i am having trouble loading facebook on my firefox. the lettering seems to come out all over on top of each other can you please help me. ive tried deleting firefox reinstallin but the same thing happens.

      33. […] בקליק אחד, נראה לנו טבעי להתקין הכל קודם כדי להתנסות (בלי לדעת מה האפליקציה עושה בדיוק); אנחנו לא שואלים את עצמנו האם האתר אסף עלינו פרטים […]

      34. Neha said, on September 03, 2008 at 1:01 pm


        I am creating a new application and i have successfully created it by following the tutorial in the developers section.
        Now i need to add this app to my profile page and after looking through forums i found that i need to make some app settings to achieve this.
        But in the app settings for my app, i could not find the ability to add the app to Profile.

        Then i googled and found that i need to change the url from apps.facebook.com to apps.new.facebook.com and also i passed the profile_main param to profile_setFBML but still i am unable to add my app to the profile view.

        Any ideas or suggestions are welcome.

        Neha Mittal

      35. John said, on October 09, 2008 at 7:39 am

        I’m an unable to chat,update my status,or comment on other peoples profiles on facebook. There’s no scripting error message bottom left and the applications,chat,notifications bar is inacessable anything i’m doing wrong

        Cheers, john

      36. Robert said, on January 03, 2009 at 4:23 pm

        Was wondering if there was an app that would show me who has been looking at my Profile.


      37. Andrea said, on March 16, 2009 at 8:16 am

        Thanks SOOOOO much for writing this guide!!!

        How to stop friends’ applications from accessing my info (and continuously notifiying me that someone answered a question about me…) was really tricky, since you would automatically go to Application Settings, and that’s just not the right place to go…

        Thanks again for your guide, it’s worth gold!!!

      Comments are closed.

      %d bloggers like this: