Understanding Facebook Security

April 27, 2011, By Christian Cawley

There is an increasing need to stay in control of information about you that is found online. With the threat of identity theft on the increase and more and more stories about people online claiming to be someone else, taking control of your personal details is becoming more vital.

The first place to start is Facebook, where billions of users around the world list their likes, dislikes, age, full name, spouse, location, where they went to school, who they are related to… basically, Facebook users list everything about themselves, information that is stored in a vast database that can easily (read that again: easily) be accessed by third party “apps” and games that are innocently granted access to your account so that you can interact with friends online (rather than in person).

If you have any interest in retaining control of your privacy, discarding your Facebook account (or reducing your use of it considerably) is the place to begin.

Understanding Facebook Security

Understanding How Facebook Really Works

We’re going to assume that you want to keep on using Facebook. After all, why wouldn’t you? It’s a fun website, allowing you to keep tabs with what friends and relatives are up to, providing links and news from shows, movies, bands and other things that you might be interested in, all for free.

Except actually, it’s not for free; someone else is paying, and that someone else is an advertiser who pays money to Facebook for information about you, based on the interests that the advertiser is targeting.

For instance anyone who has listed “Windows Phone 7” as something they are interested in (or has evening mentioned it in their status) will receive targeted adverts based on this status, perhaps suggesting a HTC HD7 with a suitable mobile network in your territory.

As things stand, no data is sold without your consent. Facebook claim to be more interested in retaining trust throughout the network rather than cashing in quickly, but that doesn’t mean that other parties cannot find out who you are, what you look like, and what your friends are doing.

Facebook Privacy Threats – Third Party Apps and Games

Threats on Facebook come from two areas: privacy settings and apps and games. While the two are closely related, dealing with the privacy settings will take a whole separate article.

However if you are concerned about loss of privacy online via Facebook yet enjoy the various quizzes, farming games, gambling games and other trivial nonsense found on the popular network that allows you to socialize in a very virtual way with people you’ve known since birth and others that you met in the pub the night before, then you really need to make a decision.

The choice is simple. Thanks to third party apps and games you can easily find yourself on a website offering unsuitable services or introducing browser hacks; your information, if not correctly configured, can be shared with people you don’t know and app developers that you have no knowledge of; your personal data, privacy and your online safety are all at risk.

Play on Facebook, and share your life and identity, or withdraw and stay safe.

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