Time to edit your Facebook privacy settings – again

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Once again, Facebook has changed their privacy policy and made it necessary for you to take action and change your privacy settings.  Seems like it’s an ongoing battle between Facebook and its users.  Really can’t blame Facebook for wanting to make money, but they could be more open about what is happening.


Here’s what has happened most recently.

Facebook has partnered with three other websites (so far): Pandora.com, Yelp.com. and Docs.com.  All three of these are very popular websites that get a lot of traffic.

What does this partnership mean to you?  Let’s say you are signed in to Facebook (like you probably are most of the time).  You open a new tab or new window and visit Pandora (an online streaming music site that tailors the music selections to songs and artists that you like).  Pandora recognizes that you are a Facebook user, and notifies you by a blue bar at the top of the screen that it will be using your Facebook data to make your experience more “personalized”:

Pandora Facebook bar

That is, unless you click the “No Thanks” link.  So if you have listed some favorite songs on your Facebook info, Pandora would use that information unless you opt out.

That’s the key element here – rather than allowing you to make the deliberate choice to share your information, Facebook is saying you have to deliberately choose not to share it.

If you don’t care about this, you don’t have to do anything.  If you don’t want Facebook sharing your info with these three sites (and whatever sites they partner with in the future), you need to take action.

One option is to go to each of those three sites (while logged in to Facebook), and click the “No Thanks” link.  However, this does not opt you out of future sites.

A more comprehensive way to opt out is to change a setting in your Facebook account (but even this is not foolproof, as you will see in a minute):

First, go to your Facebook privacy settings (click here).  Click on “Edit Setting” in the Instant Personalization section.  UNcheck the box that says “Allow select partners to instantly personalize…”.  When you do that, you will get this window:

facebook warning

Normally, most people will just click “Confirm” without reading this text.  You will probably still want to click Confirm.  But take a look at that last line: “…if you opt out, your friends may still share public Facebook information about you to personalize their experience on these partner sites unless you block the application.

What does this mean?  Frankly, I am not sure (see update at the end of this post).  But clearly, if you have gone this far to stop your information from being shared, you will want to also block the application.  Each of the three “partner” sites has a Facebook application that makes all of this lovely information-sharing possible.

Here are the links to block each one:

Click here to block the Pandora.com application

Click here to block the Yelp.com application

Click here to block the Docs.com application

When you click on each of those links you will see the application page and a link on the left side that says “Block Application”.  Just click that link and confirm it, and you’re done.  At least until Facebook comes up with some new way to send your information out to the world.

Block application

UPDATE: To see what personal information of yours your friends can share, go to Account – Privacy Settings – Applications and Websites.  Find “What your friends can share about you” and click “Edit Settings”.  Uncheck any information you do not want to allow your friends to share.

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Mo Gilbert
April 26th, 2010

Thanks, Scott; lots of good information and I wasn’t even attuned to that mentality – my friends using my info or, at worst, sharing it!

April 26th, 2010

Thank you for the valuable advice. I did it as soon as I received your email.

June 9th, 2010

Very good!! I try to keep up with the almost weekly changes on Facebook, but you do it for me, thanks much.
You need a TV show, right before Glenn Beck. What he does for America, you do for the unwashed computer zombies that don’t understand the issues.