Parents, the best advice for Facebook users at your house is, “Leave the contact info in your profile blank.” That’s the quick, easy end run around the new change, which allows apps to use your address and phone numbers if you give them permission to do so. That’s the good news: It’s opt-in – you choose to provide the apps with that info. The problem is, once FB users decide to install an app, they usually click “Allow” pretty automatically. So the long-term advice for young Facebook users is to think about every click they make – don’t mindlessly give others control over your data. This is a great media-literacy training opp (as well as an important child online-safety measure).
Here’s all you need to do to leave those boxes blank: After you log in, click on “Home” (upper right corner), then “Edit My Profile” under your name in the upper left corner. Then, under “Basic Information” in the left-hand column, click on “Contact Information.” On that screen, just leave phone numbers and address blank (for illustrations, see my ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid’s piece in CNET). Most apps wouldn’t abuse users’ information but, according to Time’s Techland, “users run the greater risk of having information farmed by malicious rogue apps. Scams are carefully monitored by the Facebook team, but can usually exist for at least a few days before they’re shut down, meaning that cybercriminals will have time to trick users into downloading the faux app and gaining access to even more personal info that could be used against them.” This isn’t just a Web issue, though. It’s also a sign of the times and the ubiquity of apps – iPhone users, too, have to be careful about apps’ use of their data. ArsTechnica.com explains.
This just in!: Within an hour of my posting the above, Facebook announced it was putting a hold on this change. Please see my update for details.