Facebook App Privacy Settings You Should Know

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Q: Facebook privacy issues are in the news again? How do I protect myself -- and my information -- from third-party applications?

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A: A report released by the Wall Street Journal this morning found that some of the most popular applications on Facebook, including Zynga's Farmville, which has more than 50 million users logging in to plant carrots and tend to their sheep, have been releasing identifying information to Internet tracking and advertising companies. This activity has affected tens of millions of users -- even those that had opted for the social network's strictest privacy settings.

The leak goes against Facebook's Privacy Policy, so there's nothing you would have been able to do to stop it -- except to stay away from the apps in question completely. Still, one of Facebook's newest features will allow you to monitor which applications are accessing which parts of your profile and, if you don't like what you see, to block them completely. Knowing your way around this feature will help you to avoid becoming a part of the next privacy breach.

To see what information on your profile Facebook applications can access:

Visit Facebook.com, log in with your user information and, on the top right-hand corner of the screen, click on "Account" and then "Privacy Settings." On the bottom of the screen, choose "Edit your settings" from the "Applications and Websites" module. This page will show you how many applications, games and websites have access to your information and allow you to "Remove unwanted or spammy applications" (individually) with the click of a button. Or, you can choose "Edit Settings" and go through the list more thoroughly, looking at each application individually to see when they last accessed your information and which sections of your profile they have access to.

From the "Applications and Websites" page, you also have the option to "Turn off all platform applications." That's the easiest way to protect all of the data you share on Facebook, but is it worth losing your farm for?

Tools mentioned in this entry:

More questions? View the complete Toolkit archive.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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