How to stop your friends' Facebook apps from accessing *your* private information

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Privacy

Facebook privacy menuMany internet users are wary of sharing their personal information willy-nilly with the world, but did you know that sometimes it's your friends who might be unwittingly passing your private details on?

Take Facebook, for instance.

You might believe that you have carefully controlled what people you choose to share your photos and personal information with on the social network. And maybe you're really careful about what third-party Facebook applications you allow to have access to personal details such as your birthday, your status updates and educational and work history.

As we have explained many times before on Naked Security, you should always be careful about which Facebook apps you allow to connect with your account, as they can collect varying levels of information about you.

If you aren't comfortable with the information a Facebook app wants to access, don't install the app.

But it seems that some Facebook users aren't aware that - unless you have locked down your privacy settings correctly - the apps, games and websites that your *friends* use can also access your personal details, photos and updates.

Lax Facebook privacy settings

Even if you have rejected particular apps from connecting from your Facebook profile, you have no control over what apps your friends and family have chosen to connect to their profiles.

Your friends and family may not be being as cautious as you are about Facebook apps - and you may not realise that when other Facebook users choose to install apps they can then share the information they can see about you with those apps.

Facebook argues that allowing other people to share your info with third-party apps makes the "experience better and more social". Your opinion may vary from theirs, however.

Fortunately, Facebook gives you a way to change the default setting to share this personal information - and protect your private details.

Here's what my locked-down Facebook profile looks like:

Facebook privacy setting (mobile view)

You'll find the option to control how this content gets shared under the "Apps/Apps Others Use" section of your Facebook privacy options.

Visit your Facebook privacy settings and untick each option if you wish to limit what information about you your Facebook friends can share with third-party applications.

If you *really* have no interest in Facebook apps, and want to take a bolder stance against them there is a "nuclear" option which some users may prefer.

Facebook gives you the ability to disable what they call "Platform". Of course, this means you won't be able to log into apps or websites using your Facebook credentials, and your Facebook friends won't be able to share content with you via apps, but it may be an option chosen by the more privacy-conscious Facebook user.

Turn off Facebook platform

This option, if you want to take it, is also available via your Facebook privacy settings.

Don't forget you should join the Naked Security from Sophos Facebook page, where we keep you up-to-date on the latest security and privacy issues threatening Facebook users.

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15 Responses to How to stop your friends' Facebook apps from accessing *your* private information

  1. This is nice and all, but if you want to use Facebook Messenger at all, the "If I'm Online" box needs to be checked.

    • Jenn · 567 days ago

      Mine has been unchecked all along, and I use FB Messenger constantly.

  2. gmd · 567 days ago

    Thank you, very helpful. I had no idea that facebook was able to make money by selling personal details to other apps via my friends:-(

  3. gmd · 567 days ago

    Sorry to add another comment, but after exploring further, I am outraged. Apps can harvest your data via friends even if you have specifically blocked them on Facebook. This is sneaky and dishonest! if there is a security setting that blocks an app it should apply to all circumstances. Another example of Facebook not adhering to the spirit of privacy by creating hard to see options that provide a legal technicality that allows Facebook to profit from your data? :-(

  4. Jennifer · 567 days ago

    Thankfully mine was already done. But thanks for the reminder to check my privacy settings!

    I've noticed over the last 3 months or so my privacy settings continually "revert" from "Friends except restricted/acquaintances" to "Friends" or "Public." I try to go in and check them every month and I've complained and/or "reported a bug" several times but the folks at fb obviously don't care. As long as advertisers are paying to see our info, fb doesn't give a rat's furry behind about keeping it private!!!

  5. Justin Ong · 567 days ago

    Facebook isn't free. Of course you need to pay with your privacy ;)

    • It's too bad that WE (as users) aren't the ones to reap the financial benefits that Facebook, Google, etc. gets for mining our (as users) own personal info. We'd all be so loaded by now! Then if this were the case, of course, said companies/corporations probably wouldn't be anywhere close what they are today, or perhaps even exist for that matter.

  6. Di Cox · 567 days ago

    I have "Platform" "Off", but I don't have any Option for "Apps OTHERS use", only "Apps you use".

    • bratsche · 567 days ago

      As it says above, having Platform "Off" (which I do too) disallows *any* apps from getting your information, including your friends' apps. That's why they call it the nuclear option.

  7. stan · 566 days ago

    just a warning. if you "turn off platform" and then turn it back on, not only will facebook have forgotten all of the app you have previously allowed, but it will reset "apps others use" to share EVERYTHING about you

  8. Cindy · 566 days ago

    I've got the "Apps other use" section but I can't find a "Turn off Platform" option. How exactly do I get to that?

  9. Sandra · 566 days ago

    Thank you for posting this.

  10. Nigel · 566 days ago

    I dumped my Facebag account because the cost (in personal privacy) was far too high, and that they have continued to demand an ever-higher price for their so-called "free service". I got fed up with their implementing an unending supply of "features" without informing me, and NOT making them all opt-in by default.

    I see that they have persisted in being even more insidiously intrusive since I dumped my account. In Yoda-speak, "Have nothing to do with them, I will."

  11. Marjorie · 556 days ago

    I found if I turn off Platform I won't be able to log into websites either. Does that mean EarthSky websites? And, I can't find the page where I tick off the boxes, as above. Can you direct me?

    Now I have to log in to post this comment. ?????

  12. well its really annoying if a friend of you share some rubbish apps with you automatically i just wanna to get rid of this horrible situation thanks for your advice its really a blessing for me.

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.