Two Things I Don’t Understand About Facebook

April 13th, 2009

Item #1

Say you want to do something like take a quiz to tell you what Star Wars character you are, and have to result posted to your wall.

It would make sense for Facebook to prompt you for authorization for the app to make a one-time post to your wall. But instead, they ask you for permission to “pull your profile information, photos, your friends’ info, and other content that it requires to work.” And we have no idea what this “other content” is.

So yes, in order to be told that you most closely resemble Storm Trooper Extra #3, you must let the app developer have access to all your updates, your list of friends, your hometown, email address, whatever else only your close friends can see. Why can’t Facebook make this a tad less invasive?

Item #2

I also don’t understand why people click Allow to these apps, having no idea just who is getting access to their information or what information they’re getting.

And Terah thinks I’m being paranoid because I said that criminals probably are writing cute facebook apps… ah well.

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Comments Feed11 Comments

  1. terah

    But they’re CUTE!


  2. David

    I don’t really mind because I don’t put anything on Facebook that I don’t consider to already be in the public domain. Am I being naive?


  3. Lars Wirzenius

    John, the reason Facebook doesn’t make it less invasive is that the whole point of Facebook is to get people to reveal as much personal information as possible. Such data is unfortunately a lucrative business.


  4. rjc

    That’s why I’ve removed all the extra “apps”, share my personal information (only email address) with my “facebook friends”, and keep the account only to actually don’t loose touch with some them.


  5. Dean

    From memory they don’t actually give your email address away, they generate a forwarder per person per app and give that away.


  6. Michael Pobega

    Don’t worry, you’re not being paranoid; I completely agree with you. A ‘cute’ looking app can easily be built by a predator and sent around, just waiting for it to hit it’s target.


  7. h01ger

    i’ve heard that you can query the whole facebook with a single application key…


  8. Jeremy

    Facebook does provide less invasive options to the facebook developers. The stars character app could be written today, exactly how you suggested. But, many app developers don’t bother — they just ask for everything. In some cases, this is because the apps were written for an older version of facebook when that was the only choice.

    Anyway, go to Settings -> Privacy Settings -> Applications -> Settings. And you can set exactly what apps are allowed to see by default.


  9. Jeremy

    Actually, I take that back, that does allow you to control some privacy levels, but that is what your friends who use apps are allowed to see about you through the apps. :)


  10. Raoul Duke

    there’s a reason the CIA is one of the investors in Facebook, non?


  11. Leon

    Heh. That’s why I’m very picky about my facebook apps (although I do play with a few) and basically never fill out quizzes, because there is no need for such an app to have that much info.

    But yes, the thought has occurred to me to write a facebook app for the primary purpose of harvesting as much personal information as possible. I’m not sure what that information would be useful for, though, but surely there are devious ways to infer even more private information about an individual by looking at their friends network.

    Of course, the real question is how one could turn this into money, power, fame, etc. It could be incredibly useful for police work, or for political purposes, or generally suppressing dissident opinions. Outside these arenas, the benefits are less clear to me.


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