Facebook adding more user-control of app privacy

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Facebook to offer more control over what information users must reveal to apps

This post first appeared on Forbes.com

Speaking at Facebook’s F8 developers’ conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that “Over the years one of the things we’ve heard over and over again is that people want more control over how they share their information, especially with apps.”  He added, “If people don’t have the tools  they need to feel comfortable using your apps than that’s bad for them and it’s bad for you. He pledged that “we need to do everything we can to put people first and give people the tools they need to sign in and trust (your) apps.” Facebook also posted details on its developers blog.

Disclosure: I’m co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a non-profit Internet safety organization that receives financial support from Facebook and other companies.

Addresses user fear

Zuckerberg addressed an issue that has plagued me ever since Facebook started allowing third party app developers to let users sign-in with Facebook. It’s always felt like a bit of a black box. When I sign into an app, I’m never sure what information I’ll share, not only with the app developer but with my friends. And there is even the risk that you could reveal information about your friends by using a third party app. “We know that some people are scared about pressing this blue (Login with Facebook) button,” said Zuckerberg. He added, “if you’re using an app that you don’t completely trust or you’re worried might spam your friends, than you’re not going to give it a lot of permissions.”

Change “line by line” what you reveal to apps

Last year Facebook separated read and publish permission so that apps can no longer require you to publish to all your friends, but the company is now including a dialog that lets you change “line by line what you share with this app,” said Zuckerberg. You could, for example, choose not to share your email address or other details or withhold other permissions. “I can sign in on my own terms,” said Zuckerberg.

Users get to control what their friends share about them

Zuckerberg also admitted that people can sometimes be surprised when friends share some of your data with an app. In the past when a friend logged into an app, that app could ask you to share your own data and data your friends had shared with you. But, going forward, “we are going to make it so now everyone has to choose to share their own data with an app themselves.”

Anonymous log-in

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Sometimes when you want to try a new app, you don’t really want to create an account or sign in with your real identity so Facebook is offering a new feature called Anonymous log-in that enables you to sign into a new app without having to reveal your identity. Facebook of course does know who you are, but with the anonymous service, they won’t tell the app who you are. They do give you an anonymous identifier that enables you to use the app on various devices. Later, you have the option of signing-in under your real name.

App links

Facebook also introduced “App Links,” which is a platform that enables developers to “map your web content to your mobile content” across devices and platforms.

As this Facebook video explains, App-links make it easier for developers to allow users to link directly into their apps.

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