How to protect your Facebook account from stalkers

Summary:There are three things you can do to protect yourself from Facebook stalking apps: uninstall some of them, limit the information your friends' apps can see, and/or block all apps period.

When news broke on Friday about the stalker app Girls Around Me, which hunts women via Facebook and Foursquare, I immediately contacted Facebook. The app merged Facebook and Foursquare data and layered it over Google Maps with real-time GPS location data to show the user where the nearest women are. That's right: apps your friends use can access certain parts of your Facebook account.

A few hours later, Facebook got back to me and told me that the app was already inaccessible. As my colleague Violet Blue noted, by this point the app had been pulled from the App Store (by the developer) and Foursquare had revoked the app's API access, saying that it violates the company's API policy.

Facebook did not take any action against Girls Around Me, nor did it provide me with a statement about what it would do for other apps like this one in the future. Believe it or not, this isn't the only stalker app out there. That being said, I was given a bit more information about how tagging for check-ins on Facebook works.

First, Facebook told me the usual: you can control the privacy for your posts from the service's Privacy Settings, or you can customize the settings for individual posts on Facebook.com or on your mobile device. I was supplied with the above screenshots for the latter.

As for tags, Facebook told me they respect the level of privacy set by the person who posted, whether that's you or your friend. This means that if you have set the privacy for your post to anything but "public", it will not appear in the app. You can also block specific apps from accessing any of your information.

What the Facebook spokesperson didn't tell me is that doing so will often make the app useless. Some apps have crazy requirements: they want access to as much data on you as possible. If your Facebook friends use them, the apps can potentially access your birthday, status updates, photos, hometown, current city, and app activity.

So, what's the real solution? First and foremost, you should uninstall all the apps you don't use. Yes, that's right. Think carefully about which companies you trust, and which of their apps you don't mind handing over your information to. I wrote up a quick guide for uninstalling apps for you here: How to clean up your Facebook apps.


Image Gallery: This gallery explains how to clean up your Facebook apps. How to clean up your Facebook apps
How to clean up your Facebook apps
How to clean up your Facebook apps

This still isn't enough. There are two more things you can do. First, you can take a look at how Facebook friends bring your info to apps they use. Here's how Facebook describes it:

People who can see your info can bring it with them when they use apps. Use this setting to control the categories of information people can bring with them.

If you want to do this, follow this guide: How to limit the Facebook data your friends' apps can see.


Image Gallery: This gallery explains how to limit the Facebook data your friends' apps can see. How to limit the Facebook data your friends' apps can see
How to limit the Facebook data your friends' apps can see
How to limit the Facebook data your friends' apps can see

There's an even more drastic option. This is the best approach if you want to be absolutely sure no third-party apps, yours or your friends, get to access your data. The downside is that you won't be able to use any Facebook apps or apps that require Facebook.

If you want to do this, follow this guide: How to block all Facebook apps.


Image Gallery: This gallery explains how to block all Facebook apps. How to block all Facebook apps
How to block all Facebook apps
How to block all Facebook apps

I hope that helps. Let me know if it doesn't.

See also:

Topics: Apps, Social Enterprise

About

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years, he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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