Delete Older Facebook Apps — or Risk Everyone’s Privacy

BY Vanessa Dennis  December 27, 2010 at 11:08 AM EDT

If you have a Facebook page, you’ve probably added quite a few apps. If you’ve linked your YouTube account, New York Times account, or just about any mobile app to your Facebook profile, you’ve also installed their app — and you’re sharing your personal information with those companies. But here’s the kicker: older Facebook apps appear to also have an all-you-can-eat buffet of access to your friends’ personal data, while newer apps have much more limited access.

This may be old news to some, but a non-scientific survey of some Internet-saavy colleagues indicates that many of us are still using outdated Facebook apps. The developers of these older applications required you to hand over your entire digital identity, and often have access to all of your personal data–including things like marital status, personal photos and videos.

Take for instance, the “Send Cupcakes” app. This app lives in my Facebook account and was installed in 2008. It can access my friends’ photos and videos. Would I willingly agree to allow this now that I am both more protective and more aware of privacy issues? No. But apparently back when I couldn’t resist spamming my friends with cupcakes, I also told Facebook that it was perfectly fine for “Send Cupcakes” to access all of our private information.

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In 2009, Facebook made several highly publicized privacy changes as part of a settlement with the Canadian government. This means newer apps offer much more privacy control for the user.

So in addition to monitoring your profile privacy settings on Facebook, you should also consider deleting older apps and installing newer versions. Here is an example of the data access from an older YouTube app and then the newer YouTube app. Much less personal information is available, and much less is required for the app to work.

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The path to delete these apps is a little confusing, but you can follow the instructions below. Most people will find that they signed up for far more than they recall. I know I don’t remember wanting to “Send Cupcakes.”

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On Monday’s NewsHour, Ray Suarez will report on proposed new “Do-Not-Track” legislation that could make it harder for websites and others to track you online. Stay tuned.