Facebook applications (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.) If you click on the info tab of the application and there is nothing known about the developer, then we highly recommend that you do not proceed. For your maximum safety and protection, it is recommended that you do not use any apps on Facebook.
Even applications that appear harmless and fun pose potential privacy risks to you and your Facebook friends. Some of these apps require you to reveal your personal information on your account and many access your complete profile information. For example, here is the application permission screen for a popular app on Facebook right now:
Do you really want an anonymous person to have this much access to 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.
Also keep in mind that nearly all apps are not developed by Facebook, and using the application hands over your account data (based on application permissions) to the developer.
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?
Click here to see a list of apps that you currently have installed on Facebook. (you must be logged in to Facebook) and delete any you do not want (it is recommended to delete all of them!)
As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider before using any app on Facebook. Always ask yourself – is the personal data you are giving to the developer worth any potential benefit the app may provide? 99% of the time the answer is most likely to be a resounding NO!