Facebook took major steps today in protecting user privacy by announcing significant changes to the way third-party applications can access user data. Whereas developers previously had access to all profile data on a user, the new system will require applications to specify categories of information they wish to access and obtain express consent before data is shared. Users will have to specifically approve any applications access to their friends' information and that information would still be subject to the friend's privacy and application settings. This is a big win for protecting user privacy on social networks as often times, users do not know how much of their data is being shared with third party applications. Now developers will only have access to user information relevant to the application, which will decrease the amount of personal data transmitted between user and developer and web site. It will also help curb developers or ad networks that purposely create misleading applications for the sole purpose of taking user data for advertising. The blog Inside Facebook has a great post on this development here.
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