Facebook: users have 'absolute control'

Facebook butts heads with privacy... again
Facebook butts heads with privacy... again

Facebook updated its data policy for developers over the weekend, allowing them to use more of your information to build more efficient third party apps for the site.

The new information that devs can potentially get their hands on, according to the Facebook developer blog, is your mobile phone number and address.

That is if you have put this information into Facebook and you have given them permission to access it.

With every Facebook data update comes the inevitable backlash and it was security outfit Sophos who was quick to point out the problems with this.

Graham Cluely from Sophos called it a 'recipe for disaster', saying: "This change isn't as drastic as it might first appear, because users will need to give permission for third-party Facebook applications to access this data.

"But it still sounds like a recipe for disaster, given the prevalence of rogue scam applications already on Facebook - all of which benefit from apparently being blessed by the Facebook name and brand."

Going rogue

The idea that 'rogue app developers' can use your information for malware and the like isn't a new one but it is a worrying one.

With this in mind TechRadar contacted Facebook, where a spokesperson promptly told us: "On Facebook you have absolute control over what information you share, who you share it with and when you want to remove it.

"Developers can now request permission to access a person's address and mobile phone number to make applications built on Facebook more useful and efficient."

The spokesperson also noted: "You need to explicitly choose to share your data before any app or website can access it and no private information is shared without your permission. As an additional step for this new feature, you're not able to share your friends' address or mobile information."

It's clear Facebook isn't oblivious to the idea that rogue app developers use the site – you only have to check its security pages to see this is the case – but it is asking its users to execute caution when handing over information.

The question remains, though: does the everyday Facebook user, who lets apps use their details, understand quite how much information they are giving away on the site – and just how this information is being used?

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.