Why I refuse Facebook apps access to my data

Some context…

My real (as opposed to Facebook) friend James Graham posted something on my Wall on Facebook earlier today. All I could see was an intriguing snippet but in order to see more I would have had to allow a third party app access to all sorts of stuff I wasn’t willing to. Quite a while ago, having looked at what this involved for another couple of apps, I decided simply not to allow third party Facebook apps access to my data.

I never really explained why to anyone – sorry, folks, if anyone thought I was being ‘unfriendly’! – but thought I would write an explanation in response to James on his Wall. No particular reason other than I had some time this evening, and he’s a good chap who gets technology… and a lot more people read his stuff than they do mine!

Unfortunately, my response was – as usual – too verbose. It broke Facebook’s 1000 character Wall posting limit, so I had to find somewhere else to publish it (i.e. here) so I could link to what I wrote. Which was this:

Sorry, James – I can see part of what you posted: “I think Phil is popu…” but not the rest as I don’t allow any (third party) FB app to access my personal data. [I’m afraid Quotes fails at the first hurdle for me because, for anything other than very basic info about it, it apparently requires me to drop out of https]

I am especially reluctant to grant access when that *includes* [which means, as their privacy policy states, “including but not limited to”] my name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends and any other information I’ve shared with everyone; that requires me to allow it to spam my real e-mail address; which reserves the right to post status messages, notes, photos and videos to my Wall [which I’d then have to keep checking]; and whose privacy policy states: “We may update this Privacy Policy from time to time, so you should visit often to review any changes” [i.e. ‘from this point onwards we’ll do whatever the hell we want, without seeking your permission or even informing you directly of what we’ve done’].

Not so much ‘permission’ as ‘carte blanche’…

If you haven’t already, it may be worth casting your eyes over the whole policy: http://apprunner.elasticbeanstalk.com/docs/privacy.html – an indication of how appalling a system FB has become is that this can be presented in all seriousness as any sort of ‘privacy’ policy!*

Though I have to say I do ‘sort of’ appreciate their honesty: “Onoko International [?] will make reasonable efforts to secure your Personal Data from unauthorized use” – sounds like they have put about as much thought into that sentence as they will into looking after your data! (You know I prefer a more absolutist approach, e.g. “We will never share your data with anyone, and we will prosecute anyone who makes unauthorised use of the data you share with us.”)

I must confess, though, I am egotistical enough to ask what your quotation says in full 😉

*As I’ve not bothered to publicly articulate my reasoning behind refusing app requests before, I hope you won’t mind if I finish my train of thought so I can refer (others) to it later…

I contend that Facebook is at heart little more than an environment of cleverly-designed and executed psychologically-manipulative personalised public forums with outrageously overengineered profiles and user tracking, where you surrender not just your personal data and content but moderation to automated systems and persons unknown. Treat it knowingly as such and you MAY be safe.

Facebook is clearly not (just) ‘a social network’, it is also quite clearly positioning itself to be an (the!) internet identity authority, but – like all walled gardens eventually do – it is also rapidly reaching the limits to which it can expand, which makes it especially dangerous right now.

I do not ‘play’ in or with Facebook.

Now I’m (mainly) off my NO2ID persona, I try to interact and transact with a degree of caution that may not be immediately evident.

Please don’t take this as a rant against you or how you decide to use Facebook. It isn’t. But I find it hard to express just how appalling I find this place, the more I dig into it. (And no, I won’t “just leave”, as some might suggest. When I see something this bad, I feel I have to try to understand it. Who knows? I may even decide I have to do something about it…)

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3 Responses to Why I refuse Facebook apps access to my data

  1. hal says:

    Hi Phil,
    I have just gone to sign my wife up for fb via her new samsung tablet and I was really dumbstuck by all of the control that fb would have over her tablet, including her camera and mic! I stopped dead and found your blog. Do you know how to combat this so I can in sign her up with peace of mind?
    Thanks very much,

    • Phil says:

      Hi Hal,

      Sorry, I don’t. Assuming Facebook doesn’t let you decline or switch off those options, if you can’t switch off the camera and microphone in the tablet’s settings and be sure that Facebook can’t switch them back on, I don’t see that you can trust it at all. I wonder how many million people Facebook is surveilling right now? Creepy!

      N.B. I hear some phone manufacturers are now trialling facial recognition as an ‘anti-theft’ measure. Great. Just what we need – even more surveillance by our own devices…


  2. Ru Moor says:

    You hit the nail squarely on the head! I cannot, for the life of me, understand why they need access to your camera, contacts, SMS, microphone??? This has surpassed Social Media into Police State…
    Fb suspended my account, for no obvious reasons…I’m guessing my likes & posts were to socially conscious…initially I couldn’t get past logging in…then they asked for Photo ID or Government ID!!!! I declined and suggested they delete my account. It is scarily invasive…and getting worse!

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