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Facebook Tightens Privacy in Mobile Apps

Rafe Needleman
Editorial Director, Yahoo Tech
Yahoo Tech

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Yahoo Tech)

SAN FRANCISCO — At the 2014 Facebook F8 Conference here on Wednesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg kicked off the show by announcing three major changes to the way people will log in to other vendors’ Facebook apps. They’re all positive changes that should do a good job of making Facebook a more acceptable log-in method for the hundreds of millions of people who are using their Facebook identities to personalize mobile apps.

Calling the initiative “People First,” Zuckerberg laid out these changes. Check out the CNET video and then read on to see what it means:

1. You can line-item veto what you share with apps.
When you log in to a new app with your Facebook credentials, you will now be able to turn on and off the sharing of specific data with apps. For example, if you don’t want an app to know who your friends are, or what your birthday is, or what your location is, you’ll be able to turn those items off independently.

Zuckerberg said that if you have no changes to make in an app’s default sharing requests, you will be able to log in with the same number of taps as before, so it should not slow down the “onboarding” of new members.

2. Your friends won’t be able to rat you out.
While you have always had some control over your Facebook privacy, it has been, to date, too easy for any of your friends to share data about you with Facebook. No longer.

Under the new plan, Zuckerberg said, “Now everyone has to choose to share their own data with an app themselves.”

This should prevent people who use Facebook only to share info with their close friends from finding their information shared by their friends with other apps.

3. You can put your apps in incognito mode.
Finally, Facebook-using apps will now be able to offer trial versions that don’t require you to connect to your Facebook account at first.

Apps will be able to present a “Log In Anonymously” button. Later, after test-driving the app that’s not connected to your account, you will be able to connect it to Facebook — if you like.

One neat trick: Facebook will synchronize usage data across devices for people using an app in anonymous mode. So if you’re trying an app on your smartphone and you want to see it on your tablet, too, any customizations you’ve made will transfer between devices. The app vendor still will not be able to offer you Facebook social features, and nothing you do will be reflected in your Facebook records.

Read: Facebook’s official announcement.

Rafe Needleman can be reached at rafeneedleman@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @rafe​.