We often have readers ask us questions about specific Facebook applications. Some apps generate an enormous amount of spam and can annoy the heck out of your Facebook friends. Others are outright scams and should be avoided entirely. For example, any application offering to show you who has viewed your profile, who your Facebook stalkers are etc., are guaranteed to be fraudulent. Facebook doesn’t allow developers access to the data required to create apps like this.
There are a couple of things you should know about third party Facebook applications. First off, there is no formal review process for applications or developers on the Facebook platform. Anyone and everyone (scammers included) can create apps. This is far different from the “Walled Garden” approach taken by Apple. Many unsuspecting users might be under the impression that if it’s on Facebook then it must be legitimate. That is totally not the case.
The majority of Facebook applications that virally spread on the platform are questionable at best (virally here means spreading quickly and not that it necessarily contains a virus.) Many of them are created by unknown developers and they can require a large number of permissions. The more permissions you allow, the more of your data and privacy you are likely giving up. For your maximum safety and protection, it is essential that you only install apps from trusted, well known sources. Also, try to limit the permissions that the application can access.
Even applications that appear harmless and fun can pose potential privacy risks to you and your Facebook friends. Some of these apps require you to enter your birthday or they access your complete profile information. For example, here is an example of the permissions required of a popular game on Facebook:
*Image Credit – Facebook App Center
* Disclaimer – we are not warning against the application, we are simply using this one as an example to show what the app installation page looks like.
This shows that by playing the game your are allowing the developer to receive your public profile information. You can review the information that includes by clicking on the link. For each app you install, you will have to ask yourself if you want the developer to access your account information? Scammers can and do mine Facebook accounts for information they can later use for identity theft, socially engineered attacks and other fraudulent purposes.
Apart from the spam and scams, there are literally thousands of applications on the Facebook platform that fall within a grey area. It is best to go to the actual application page located on Facebook to investigate it further.
Once you are on the application page, here is a list of things you should check out before choosing to install the app:
- Who developed the application? 99% of the apps we are asked to review by our readers have absolutely no information provided on the ‘info’ tab of the app in question.
- How many people are using the application and how are the reviews? Don’t go by sheer numbers alone. We have seen rogue applications quickly garner thousands of users. Check out the user reviews and wall postings on the application page.
- How Intrusive is the application? How much of my personal data is required by the developer?
If you have installed some questionable or rogue apps, we have created the following guide that shows you how to remove them from your Facebook account:
Click here to see a list of apps that you currently have installed on Facebook. (you must be logged in to Facebook)
As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider before proceeding with the installation of any Facebook app. Always ask yourself – is the personal data you are giving to the developer worth any potential benefit the app may provide?
If you decide you don’t want to play applications at all on Facebook, then you can disable the application platform entirely.
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