It’s not always clear how Facebook apps interact with the data you share on the social network. Are they allowed to broadcast it? Sell it? Compile it in a way that you never intended?
Simply, should you choose not to share with apps at all, they are taken away from you. If you want to use some, but limit their functionality, you have to carefully customize your privacy settings in order to ensure your information is used appropriately. With the Open Graph, which can push any information to your Facebook page without explicit permission each time, it becomes more of an imperative.
Here are seven things you may not realize that Facebook knows, and is using to interact with your friends or advertisers. Concerned about what you share on the social network? Be sure to check the Apps You Use in the Privacy Tab to ensure that you have full control of your privacy in a way that makes you feel comfortable.
1. Where You’ve Been
You’ve always kept your location up to date on Facebook, ensuring everyone knows when you change cities — but you’re not interested in geotagging. Watch out, because your exact location can still be picked up by Facebook and broadcasted.
Even if you’re stringent about your whereabouts not making it to a highly visible plane, Facebook has already gathered data from you retroactively, ensuring that every time you’ve changed your city location — or listed your home town– it will show up on the map as well.
2. What You’re Listening To
You just downloaded Spotify and you’re really excited to get started. You signed up and were asked to link to Facebook before launching the app, so you clicked the boxes and everything seems ready. But don’t click play on that MC Hammer track just yet…
Since September, Spotify has required that new users sign in through Facebook, thanks to a partnership forged after the music giant hit the U.S. Essentially, anytime a regular Spotify user turns on the app and clicks play, whether via desktop or through mobile, the app can beam information right into Facebook and broadcast it to friends without prior notice. In response to major backlash, Spotify now includes a “Private Listening” mode, which blocks sharing immediately to Facebook. However, it will turn off after a restart or an extended period of time.
The only way to circumvent the compulsory posting is to turn it off permanently in both places. Spotify’s desktop app does have a “turn off publishing to Facebook” within its settings, but the only way to ensure posting does not occur is to revoke Spotify’s publishing abilities within Facebook apps.
3. When You’re Creeping
That girl you met at the event you went to last week. Your ex from college. Your worst enemy from middle school. Odds are, they’re all on Facebook, and you can’t resist the urge to creep. Just remember that Facebook is watching, too.
Naturally, anything you do on Facebook is seen and gathered by Facebook, and creeping on people is no exception. Facebook specifically tracks all clicks done within its platform in order to better tailor an experience for the user. Do you ever wonder why certain people show up in your feed, while others are hardly ever reported on? That’s your creeping doing its work. Visit your frenemy’s page enough times, and he or she will end up gracing your feed more often than you may like.
Don’t worry, Facebook does not specifically share this data with other users, though it will assume that this person is important in your life. Marking someone as a VIP can lead to their appearances more often in your advertisements or apps in addition to the extra face time on the feed.
4. Where You Run
Social running is all the rage these days, and you’re ready to load up your iPhone with RunKeeper, connect it to Facebook and get to stepping. But there’s more, and it has to do with that sneaky little GPS…
Runkeeper is one of the poster children for Facebook’s new “frictionless” user experience. A social network for avid (and aspiring) runners, Runkeeper packs sophisticated technology usually reserved for GPS watches and other athletic gear into a handy iPhone application and has the option of linking material to Facebook. Except, with the Open Graph, linking gives companies an opportunity to simply push all of the info that they collect into a user’s Timeline. And in this case, that means valuable GPS data.
Say that you go on a run with Runkeeper around the park. The GPS data routes the run you made and then pushes it to Facebook so your friends can see where you’ve been and for how long. This may not be much of a problem for you, but what if one day you forget to turn off Runkeeper and go to work? Anywhere you go from that point on is at risk of becoming common knowledge among your social circle, which can be unnerving at best and dangerous at worst. Runkeeper does a great service for those motivated for fitness, but in participating in the Open Graph, the information is fair game.
5. Your Saturday Night Plans
Your local bar is having a comedy night, and you have to RSVP on Facebook to get on the guest list. But when you click “Attending,” your plans can be broadcast to your social network — whether you realize it or not.
One of the trickier features of Facebook is the “sponsored stories” section, which is a particular form of advertising. Companies can sponsor particular Facebook actions, called “stories,” that double as advertising for a brand. However, this also means that your information could be used as an advertisement for another brand.
“Sponsored Stories” are a possibility every time you like a brand or location or respond positively to a public event. When you do this, companies can tap into your friends and let them know that you like or are attending an event — with the hopes of getting them involved, too. Liking a brand or attending its event automatically makes your information available for brand ambassadorship, and you can become an advocate for the event or the brand without implicitly signing up.
6. When You’ve Slacked on Your Diet
You have a Fitbit and you’re ready to get your connected fitness in gear. You allow your account to connect with Facebook so you can broadcast your successes to friends and family, but the Open Graph does change things.
Fitbit is not currently on Facebook’s list of fully-adopted Open Graph apps, but its potential (and partnership with Runkeeper) can create quite an issue for users who are concerned about privacy. The nuances of Facebook’s Open Graph mean that everything is done for the user as soon as permission is granted, rather than approving every singular action within an app. Combine that with an app that already makes those decisions for you, and the possibility of sharing information you actually don’t want to share is high.
The key issue with Fitbit is that it already uploads very personal information automatically whenever the portable device is near its connected docking station. Combined with Open Graph, data could be broadcasted to friends without even logging into Facebook.
7. What News Articles You Just Read
A friend read an article that catches your eye through the Washington Post Social Reader. You click on the title and realize that the app requires permission before linking to the article. You may think little of it and click through to the article, but Facebook watches as you keep reading.
The main news app that has adopted Facebook’s Open Graph structure is the Washington Post Social Reader. You may have already seen the app in your News Feed, highlighting some articles read by friends that could be of interest to you. However, if you’re interested in one of the articles, you’re going to have to allow the app to access your personal information.
That can be an inconvenience for some, but the real issue lies after you read that first article. Because of the app’s structure, you aren’t prompted whether you want to share a particular article with your peers. So, once you begin clicking around the Post’s website, all of your articles become fair game for posting onto someone else’s mini-feed. The result is, from that point forward, even without accessing the app directly through Facebook, your connection to your reading habits is already cemented and anyone can access it.