Facebook Applications and Privacy – How to Configure Facebook Applications
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.
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.
(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.
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?
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.
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).
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.
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
- Don’t spam your friends — turn off the news feed for applications that update frequently
- Too many links — turn off profile links for applications other than your favorites
- Control who can see it — there’s no good reason to share apps with your networks instead of just your friends
- Delete THEN remove — you have to delete the information inside an app before removing it
- 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
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