Why I don’t do apps on Facebook

As most people, I guess, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. It’s great for staying in touch with people, share funny stories, pics etc; however, it is not the platform I want to use for all kinds of connections with people.

This morning – which is pretty common – I got a request from a friend to install an app/share some basic info about me. I like the friend and I’d be more than happy to share all this information.

However…

Apps and information access

When I click the app invitation, it says:

THIS APP WILL RECEIVE:

  • Your email address (—-@—–.—)
  • Your profile info: education history, hometown, likes, location and work history
  • Your photos
  • Your status updates
  • Friends’ profile info: education histories, hometowns, likes, locations and work histories
  • Photos shared with you
  • Status updates shared with you

Really? I mean, really?

Why the fuck does it, for instance, need to know where I and all my friends grew up?

Also:

This app may post on your behalf… [random info it might post]… and more.

“May?” That feels very comforting.

And, to my knowledge (and definitely not in the UI for installing the app), there’s no way to have a more granular control over what the app will receive or, say, turn off the posting capabilities.

Basically, what it says is:

This app now owns your ass

If you want to share…

If you want to share all this information through a service/app or similar, by all means, do it. But please be aware of what you share, and that it’s information you really are fine with sharing and it’s a deliberate decision (not just “die, dialog, die” so you can move on).

Personally, I don’t want to put my complete digital life on display through an unknown source/group of developers, to get connected with someone I already know. And that’s why I generally don’t do apps on Facebook.

Posted in Technology |

12 Comments

  • Thomas Nilsson says:

    I usually stay away from the apps that wants this kind of excessive access to my account, unless I can be at least fairly certain it won’t be misused.

    I do believe that you can control it to some degree though. Account settings -> Apps -> Edit, there should be a small X next to “Post on your behalf”.

    Wouldn’t hurt if you could actually do this before accepting the app.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Yep, I feel the same way. I also believe there might be some privacy settings where you can turn off some of the things, but naturally that should be checkboxes in the dialog when the app requests that access.

  • Egor Kloos says:

    Apps on Facebook really make my skin crawl. It also makes me wonder how other platforms, like TV’s, deal with apps and privacy.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Indeed, that’s a great point!

  • Fully agree Robert. Most of the users will end up in lists like this one I’ve bought for just $5: http://talkweb.eu/openweb/1819

    Privacy First!
    //Bogo

  • jaredwilli says:

    Hey I’m a long time reader/subscriber, so hi :)

    I just wanted to give me 2 cents on this. While I do totally agree and absolutely have very much the same thoughts about fb apps as you, I have also been yes, rather lucky, to have been part of the creation of a facebook app which was by quite far the coolest and most amazing project I’ve worked on. Not only was the app just wickedly awesome, it had some pretty good reasons to try it out and “play the game” experience of it.

    I’m talking about the Samsung Olympic Genome Project, maybe you saw it at SXSW 2011 or tried it when it went live, or possibly heard about how 18 Olympic athletes from the app decided to sue Samsung shortly after it was launched inturn killing it.

    It was a single-page parallax scrolling interactive and dynamically updated canvas data visualization and animation which used your facebook profile information (all data which you had filled out in profile) and matched certain data points against USOC database of olympic athletes to find connections to them in various ways, eg: same school, same hometown, same likes, etc. etc. with bonus points for rare matching things too.

    I wish i could point you to the app to check it out, but it was killed. damn lawsuit. it was just fucking awesome and really a worthy example of an app that you might say, ok, sure there is value in this stuff being needed if i so choose to use this app.

    No one forces you to use any app on fb, but yea, they do suck. just not the one i worked on. My portfolio has a few photos of it, or this video i made when developing it still http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqjVE_cOlgA

    K carry on :)

  • Simon says:

    Yes, I take the same position. Core Facebook functionality, fine – I can live with their policies even if I’m not entirely happy with them. I can trust Facebook themselves not to do anything too stupid, since while they have their commercial interests, they know that if they seriously abuse the trust of their users, they’re dead.

    But third party apps, no – I can’t trust them. The entities that make them are more or less anonymous, and they have little reputation to protect. Not to say they’re all untrustworthy, but their nature means I’m less likely to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Bogomil,

    Yep, that’s a very valid point/risk!

    jaredwilli,

    Hi. Thanks for reading! :-)
    From a developer/producer standpoint, I don’t have any doubt that you can create amazing things. And as an advertiser, being able to specify your demographic is golden.

    I’m all for that, if the user wants to share that information and has the possibility to opt-out. In most cases, though, most apps require access to everything for no valid reason whatsoever.

    Also, thanks for the video!

    Simon,

    Yep, exactly. The thing with Facebook, though – and I agree with what you say about that they aren’t likely to use that in a bad way – what happens if they’re hacked?

  • Add to this the basic question, what use is a typical facebook app? If it had any practical value it would probably not be a facebook app.

    It sounds a bit cynical but it seems like the vast majority of facebook apps are designed explicitly for the purpose of harvesting personal information, while adding no value, and in many cases subtracting it.

    For example, a lot of times when you click on a link from a friend, it’s been posted via some media company’s app. They want you to install their app which adds no value, it just makes sure that they know when you’ve clicked on their link. I certainly have no interest in installing an app for every web site that people use to share a link, and consequently letting them and everyone else know what I’m doing online.

    Solution: I have to google the title and find the link myself just to use the most basic functionality of the web: the hyperlink.

    I am also disturbed by the amount of information a typical _smartphone_ app also wants (including, of course, the facebook app, which came pre-loaded on my last phone and I can’t uninstall).

    Why does the facebook app, and indeed, a lot of specialized-purpose applications having nothing to do with phone calls, need priviliges to dial my phone? To look at my address book?

    Argh…

  • Robert Nyman says:

    James,

    Yep, I agree with a lot of what you say. It’s an interesting question to ponder, what a Facebook app would be worth outside the Facebook context.

    We live in a time where tracking people and their behavior is gold, so a lot of services and features get built up around that.

  • James Burkes says:

    I agree. I never install “apps” on facebook. I don’t feel that I really understand how they work. I understand apps on my phone. I understand applications on my PCs.. Why the heck do they need “apps” on facebook? None of the apps ever made sense to me. I briefly installed some sort of classmates app, and i got really scared off as it was doing things on its own and i was receiving all kinds of messages and posts from people i didn’t know. I uninstalled and re-vowed to never install apps.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    James,

    Yes, a number of people have had that experience.

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