Understanding Your Facebook Apps: Your Privacy Depends On It

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AnonymousLogin650When you’re on the move, exploring various sites — maybe for research reasons, maybe just for fun — you’re often offered the chance to log in via your Facebook account, rather than creating a whole new account with a site you may never visit again. Sounds simple enough, right? But as with most things that seem too good to be true, there are hidden dangers that may make this convenience more trouble than it’s worth, allowing applications creepy access.

Go to your settings on Facebook, click on apps, and chances are that you’ll find a bunch of sites there that you can’t remember even visiting, which are now publicly bookmarked — because you logged into those remote sites using your Facebook account.

Remember?

Of course not. I mean, the Cocktails app might make sense, because that’s something you may actually use at homebound happy hour, but what’s Catster doing on there? Did your cat do that? No, stop blaming everything on your cat. You did, while briefly scanning the Web for details about automated poopy boxes — inadvertently leaving behind evidence of your cyber-travels, and possibly leaving your private information vulnerable to hackers.

Facebook itself advises users that logging into unaffiliated sites via your account should be avoided, because it could be a “phishing expedition.” Only websites and apps sharing the Facebook platform are considered safe connections. One way to determine the distinction is whether a separate pop-up window opens allowing you to log into Facebook directly before proceeding. If not, you should probably skip the Facebook option and sign up to the third-party site separately, or, given this red flag, maybe not at all.

Even if the app is legitimately Facebook-friendly, do you really need all of these bread crumbs littering your virtual path, leading strangers back to your private doorstep while clogging up your apps page like a neglected attic?

Under apps, you will find two categories, and two different “trails” — sites logged into with Facebook, and those logged in “anonymously.” As explained on Facebook, logging in anonymously is the less risky course, since none of your info will be shared with that third party, which could be, for instance, a popular gaming app. Facebook creates an “anonymous” identify for you, denying access to your “real” account while networking with strangers.

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The caveat is that if you want to use a site’s social features, you’ll have to log in via Facebook as yourself. Also note that if you connect via normal Facebook Login first, you can’t switch back to anonymous if you get spooked. However, the reverse is possible.

In either case, your privacy is at stake, since any app you add via Facebook has access to the same information Facebook is privy to, as they share the same platform. This is something to consider when collecting all of those apps, even the ones you use frequently, since the more you add, the more outside parties have access to the same information Facebook collects and shares.

It might be time for some housecleaning, prioritizing the apps you use most often and deleting the ones that are disposable. If nothing else, it will feel good to take out the trash!

Readers: Now be honest — how many apps do you have?

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