Facebook Revises Privacy Settings for Apps

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Social networking powerhouse Facebook has rolled out a new system controlling how third-party applications and Web sites can tap into Facebook users’ profiles. Previously, apps had to get permission to access non-public portions of a user’s profile; under the new “simplified” permissions system, apps will only be able to access public portions of a profile by default. To access private portions of a profile, the application must explicitly ask for permission. Private information includes things like photos and videos and information about Facebook friends.

The new permissions box will appear anytime a user installs a new application or first logs into an external Web site using their Facebook account. The new system will enable users to see what areas of their Facebook profile an application wants to access, but does not give users yea-or-nay permission to access specific items.

The new permissions system is actually part of a privacy revamp announced all the way back in August 2009 as part of Facebook’s agreement with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Facebook has faced increasingly scrutiny in the last year over how it shares information with third parties. The company attempted to address the issues with a privacy settings revamp that introduced a myriad of complicated settings; the company quickly backed away from that and rolled out simplified privacy settings that aim to give users quick and easy control over how their information is shared. The changes have not silenced all critics.

Basic information available to all Facebook applications includes a user’s name, profile picture, gender, and network memberships.