In the wake of the Facebook and Cambridge Analytics scandal, and the news now that the Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into Facebook's use of private customer data, a lot of people are taking a minute to check the third-party app settings on their Facebook profiles.
Really, you should check yours. We'll show you how below.
My experience: It had been more than a year since I'd looked at my settings. While I tend to think of myself as a very careful Facebook user, I was stunned today to realize that I'd allowed more than 130 third-party apps to have access to at least some of my data.
Did I really do this?
A few of these apps were no surprise--things I use every day, like Bitly and Buffer. Some were legitimate apps that I'd allowed access to, but that I no longer use much: Zillow and ZipRealty, for example, when I was looking to buy real estate.
As for a few others--man, I don't know. I can't say for sure that I never gave them access, but I sure don't remember ever doing so. There were a couple of Facebook games for example--and I am absolutely, 100 percent sure I've never played anything like them.
Could I have accidentally or unthinkingly allowed access and not remembered it? That's just the point. Most likely, assuming no fraud, I unthinkingly chose the "log in with Facebook" option when signing up for some new service.
(Although seriously, I'm really careful about that--and so I implore you to check yourself.)
Here's how to check. It's not that difficult, although Facebook does a poor job of letting you opt out of apps quickly, if you have a large number of them. (Credit where it's due: BuzzFeed's Nicole Nguyen did a great job of laying out how to check these settings.)
Also, I recommend doing this on desktop if you can, simply because it will be a lot easier (although, not "easy") to revoke access to things you don't want to continue giving access to. But, technically, you can do so on either mobile or desktop editions of Facebook.
If you're reading this on on desktop...
If you're on desktop, just click here. That should take you to directly to the App Settings page, and it will look something like this:
As you hover over each listed app, you'll see two little icons pop up: a pencil and an X. Click the pencil, and it will show you a dialogue indicating what permissions you've given the app. Click the X simply to remove the app from your profile.
Besides having forgotten about many of the apps on my account, I was surprised at the breadth of data allowed. I am usually scrupulous--or so I thought--about giving only the minimum required access, which in most cases would simply be your public profile.
But most of the apps I looked at had much more access enabled: my email address, date of birth, pages I'd followed, and more. Anyway, it was tedious, but I went on a tear, clicking that little X and revoking app after app after app.
If you're reading this on mobile...
It's significantly trickier to find where you need to go on mobile, and then more difficult to actually review and get rid of apps. So again, I'd suggest doing this on desktop. But if you're reading this on mobile right now, you're probably curious anyway. Here's what to do:
- You're looking for three little horizontal lines on the front page of your Facebook mobile app. On iOS, they should be in the lower right corner; on Android you'll see them at the top right.
- Click on the three lines, and you'll come to a page that should have your name and profile at the top. Scroll down--you might have to scroll for a while--and you'll find the section marked "SETTINGS" in ALL CAPS.
- The first option within that section should also be called "Settings." Click on that and you'll pop up a dialogue that will include an option for "Account Settings." That's the one you want.
- You'll have to scroll down, again maybe for a while, and find where it says "Apps." Click there.
- The first option you see after clicking "Apps" should read "Logged in With Facebook." Click on that.
For each app you find here, you'll have to click it, and then scroll down to the bottom to find "Remove App," and then confirm again that you want to remove it. It's kind of a pain, and almost seems like it's designed intentionally to make it hard to disallow apps in bulk. Again, the desktop interface isn't great, but it is better.
How necessary is this?
I don't think we're at panic time by any means. Personally, I'm not too worried--maybe I should be--but I noticed that the information that Facebook was reporting it had provided to some of these apps was out of date or just plain inaccurate anyway.
That's something to keep in mind: Simply revoking the access won't delete any of the information you've already provided to the app. But at least you won't be providing any new information. Over time, I like to think that the older information will become less and less valuable.
Besides disallowing some apps, you also might want to manage the amount of information that you're providing to apps that you want to continue using. For example, there's no reason I can think of why Fiverr needs to know what Facebook pages I'd followed.
But I do use Fiverr, so I didn't want to revoke access 100 percent. So, I clicked on the pencil icon in desktop, and scaled back the level of access--without completely abandoning the service.