June 25, 2018

Giving Up Your Friends

Recently I’ve noticed a very disturbing trend of social networking sites that require you to throw your friends under the bus to get whatever goodness the given site is offering you. The latest entry in this social networking arms race is Bing, which recently presented me with this very scary dialog box:


So not only do I need to give up just about everything (did they leave anything out?) about me, I have to give up my friends and everything about them as well. Since when did this ever — even remotely — become OK?

I did not click “Okay”. You can thank me later, my friends.

But I find this really, really disturbing when the simple act of “friending” someone on a site like Facebook allows you to lose control of your information to everyone you’ve ever friended.

This prompted me to investigate what setting in Facebook I could change to make sure others weren’t inadvertently or even on purpose sharing my data with others without my knowledge. I found a page on Facebook that appeared to explain (even with an illustration) how to control this:

But I could never find this. Also, note how the only way to not give up your friends is to turn off the Facebook Platform entirely, which of course shuts down your ability to use Facebook to login to other sites as well as any apps or games you use on Facebook. In other words, we’re toast people.

If you use Facebook, you can forget about privacy. Just forget about it. Even if you think you are controlling it, you must trust that all of your friends — ALL of them — are not going give you up when they very likely already have.

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. When I teach my Facebook class, that page (how people bring your info to apps they use) is one of the stops I always make. I explain and give examples as to what it means for their privacy. I do encourage them to make their own decision. Most of the time people click off all or most of the options.

  2. Andy, I can’t find that page in my Facebook account. The link from the Facebook Platform page takes me to somewhere that looks very different and doesn’t have the options to control the information going to apps. I wonder what’s going on?

  3. Oh, duh, finally found it. Click on the “Apps” link in the lefthand bar, then click on “Apps others use”. Finally, some control.

    • Karen Coombs says:

      The technology powering this – OAuth is can be used to facilitate apps only asking for access to enough permission to a do what they need to do and nothing more. It also is supposed to enable users to control what permissions what they give when they install the app. The fact that Facebook hasn’t implemented it that way and that apps basically ask for god powers is incredibly annoying.

  4. Of course, the other way of looking at this is that I can’t use your valuable insights, thoughts, ideas and Likes when I’m looking for useful information. I find using Blekko particularly valuable when I fold in my Facebook account. If I want to find a good restaurant in say Edinburgh, I can easily use Blekko to find that data for me. After all, you’ve shared that content with me – this is just providing me with access in a different way.

    We’re moving away from the days when traditional search engines and traditional websites were the be all and end all of search – social media is as important, if not more so these days. If we as information professionals can use Facebook to like sites/pages/ etc we’re better able to assist people who have friended us, and we can have a positive effect on their search results. Agreed, it requires that we think about Facebook perhaps slightly differently, but you didn’t really think your stuff was ever private on there did you? ;)