Facebook Extends Privacy Controls to Apps

Facebook is taking another step to enhance the privacy controls on its site, offering users an added safeguard meant to check the flow of information to third-party developers and partner websites.

Wednesday afternoon Facebook rolled out a simplified approval process for users to add applications and websites. As with the previous system, only public information will be automatically available to third-parties, but the method for approving access to other sorts of information, such as photos and friends’ information, will be contained in a more intuitive interface.

“In order for these applications and websites to provide social and customized experiences, they need to know a little bit about you,” Facebook CTO Bret Taylor wrote in a blog post. “We understand, however, that it’s important you also have control over what you’re sharing.”

Facebook users will be presented with a permissions box each time they install a new application. The box will also appear the first time a user logs in to an external website using his or her Facebook account.

With the new permissions box, an application must specifically ask for the types of information it seeks to access from a user’s profile. Facebook also requires developers to delete any information they have collected that the user requests be deleted.

The updated privacy controls rollout follows a sweeping set of privacy changes Facebook announced last month, scaling back some of the features the company debuted in April to howls of protest from users and privacy advocates, as well as several members of Congress.

Those tweaks were broadly aimed at simplifying what CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged had become an overly complex system of privacy controls. For instance, Facebook gave users a one-click option to restrict access to all of their profile information only to their friends.

But today’s announcement, which only extends to information shared with third-parties, stems from an agreement Facebook reached last August with Canadian authorities, who had opened an inquiry into the social network’s privacy policies.

Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, who said at the time that Facebook’s plans to add new controls to its apps and partner sites appeared to bring it into compliance with that country’s laws, launched a fresh investigation in January to probe another set of changes the company had implemented. That review and the investigation into the third-party application policy that prompted today’s changes are separate inquiries.

Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

Kenneth Corbin
Kenneth Corbin is an experienced technology writer, editor, and eSecurity Planet contributor.

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