Who here uses Facebook? As of the last stats we saw reported, there are over 2 billion active Facebook users. Odds are, if you come up to someone on the street and ask about it, they have a Facebook account. This is pretty awesome because it can be a great tool to connect us to each other. Unfortunately, it also creates a few hidden pitfalls of which most people aren’t aware.
Stepping away from Facebook for a second, let’s think about data. When does data become valuable? Data is either valuable when a small piece holds significant import or a large amount combined can be used towards some end. This is why so many internet services track your actions (make sure to check out our previous Article on privacy if you missed it). Knowing you ate a bowl of Wheeties for breakfast isn’t important. Knowing you’ve done this daily for the last year means you might be suggestible to go to a different super market for a Wheeties sale. What does any of this have to do with Facebook? Well, with over 2 billion active users, there is quite a lot of information up for grabs which can be used in many different ways. At this point, you are probably wondering what we mean by “Selling your Friends.” Here’s the real question: if Facebook is free, where does the money come from? Sure, there are business groups and advertising, but that isn’t where most of the value is.
The short answer is that when you are using a free service, you are often the product. And with Facebook, the groups wanting to use you as a product aren’t limited to Facebook itself. The greatest “violations” to your and your friends’ privacy are either those fun little things like “Let us analyze your picture and tell you what your real nationality is” or the convienent “log in with Facebook” buttons you see all over the internet. They seem harmless enough, but have you ever read the fineprint? Through your account, you give these random companies access to not only your Facebook information, but the information of all of your friends as well. People set their accounts to private for a reason. Unfortunately, these “apps” use your friendships to harvest as much personal information as possible. Even worse, who knows who made the app? A single malicious person could easily create one of these with the sole purpose of trying to harvest personal information for his/her own gain. We’ve also seen malware infect computers through these apps. The free moment of entertainment isn’t worth the cost.
Time for some cleanup. Head over to Facebook and see what has access to your account. You’ll need to look at account settings for this. Up at the top of the page, there’s a questionmark with a little arrow by it. Click the arrow and then settings. On the left bar of the settings page, take a look at the “apps” section. You’ll see all of the apps which have access to your account here. And by the way, it isn’t a one time deal. These apps can come back and “re-up” on current information whenever they want. Do you see some you completely trust? That’s fine. Even we’ll admit that not all companies are out to steal your information. But most of them? That is 100% what they want. You should remove every app here which you do not need or trust. It’s a good idea to check back every now and again to insure another didn’t somehow find its way to your account (let a child play one game through your account and see how many show up here…). A pretty direct coorelation can be made as well between the number of apps allowed on your friends’ accounts and the amount of email spam you see if you list your email within Facebook.
We like to provide a “freebie” of sorts within these posts to give a little extra information not quite related to the subject. So now that you know about not allowing random people access to your account, would you like to make sure your own privacy settings are good for you? Head over to the “Privacy” tab on the settings page. Here you find three sections which boil down to post visability, contacting you, and finding you in general. Want to approve something a friend puts on your timeline before the world see’s it? You can! How about controling which random people can find you through a Facebook search? Also doable! There aren’t many options to sort through here so take a look and use the settings that work best for you. Between knocking out the extra apps and tightening up these settings, your account will become much more secure.