Social networking software

Facebook's New Features and Your Privacy: What You Need To Know

Plugging In To Privacy

The ‘Like' and ‘Recommend' buttons you will see on third-party Websites, as well as most of the other plugins detailed above, have the least impact on your privacy. That's because these buttons do not share any of your data with the third-party site you're visiting, according to Facebook. All the Facebook data is served to you from Facebook's own servers, even though it is being displayed on a third-party Website. So when you see that your friend Bill clicked the ‘Recommend' button on a CNN article, that information is coming from Facebook and not CNN.

However, the actual ‘Like' button, not the ‘Recommend' button, does have some impact on your privacy. That's because this button interacts directly with your Facebook profile's ‘Likes and Interests' that can be found under the ‘Info' tab on your profile page.

Graphic: Diego Aguirre
So let's say you visit the Webpage for the movie Iron Man on IMDB, and press the ‘like' button. A notification that you ‘like' Iron Man not only appears in your Facebook Newsfeed, but a link to the IMDB page will also be created under ‘Movies' in your profile's ‘Likes and Interests' section.

At first glance this doesn't sound like much, but keep in mind that whenever you connect with a site using your Facebook login, your ‘Likes and Interests' are public by default. That means any site you connect with will have access to your favorite movies, books, music, and ‘Other' pages (Other pages are mostly made up of your old Facebook Fan pages).

It's also important to note that when you press ‘Like' on an IMDB page or other site with the ‘Like' button, that Webpage is now linked to your profile where all of your friends and other Facebook users can see it.

Are these issues a big deal? Maybe not, but at the same time you should be aware of all the information you're making public and which Webpages are connecting to your profile for all the world to see.

The Like buttons are potentially going to be a huge part of the Web. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday that Facebook expected to deliver one billion likes in the first 24 hours that the company offered this functionality.

Instant Personalization

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Instant Personalization is a more deeply-integrated social experience for Facebook users compared to the 'Like' buttons. The new feature can help personalize your visits to Facebook partner sites like Yelp, Pandora and Microsoft's new Docs.com site .

At Yelp, this new functionality becomes immediately obvious. If you are signed in to Facebook, a large blue banner pops down from the top of the site, telling you the site can be personalized for you. Essentially, the site does this by showing your friends' activities on Yelp. You can see things like any restaurant reviews your friends have written, your friends' ‘likes' on Yelp and an activity feed with other recent actions taken by your friends on Yelp.

At first glance, most of this customization sounds similar to the new plugins Facebook offers, but the difference is that sites using Instant Personalization will also have access to your publicly available Facebook information the moment you land on their Webpages, while signed in to Faceboo. So when you go to Yelp or Pandora, for example, these sites can access your name, profile picture, gender, current city, networks, friend list, likes and interests, and your fan pages.

It's also important to note that some actions you take on these sites could be sent back to Facebook. Let's say, for example, that you visit Yelp and press the Facebook 'Like' button for the restaurant Convivium Osteria in Brooklyn . That information would automatically be sent back to Facebook just as it would be if you clicked the 'Like' button on a site that doesn't offer Instant Personalization. Yelp could also publish other activity you take on its site if you have authorized Yelp to post things on your Facebook Wall.

How to opt-out of instant personalization

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If you don't want to use Instant Personalization, visit your Facebook Privacy Settings page for Applications and Websites and uncheck the 'Allow' check box next to 'Instant Personalization.' (see included image to see what this screen looks like)

Another option is to click 'No Thanks' on the blue Facebook banner that pops down when you visit Instant Personalization sites. (see image in the previous section to see what this banner looks like) When you click 'No Thanks,' Facebook's Instant Personalization partner sites are required to delete your data. But watch out, as I understand it you have to explicitly click 'No Thanks,' because simply closing the banner by clicking on the 'X' in the far right will not block the Instant Personalization features.

Opting Out Isn't Opting Out

It's also important to note that opting out of Instant Personalization will not completely stop Instant Personalization sites from accessing your information. If any of your Facebook friends visit these sites, the Instant Personalization feature can access that person's friend list and all the publicly available information for each friend. So if you're Facebook friend Suzy visits Yelp, even if you've opted out of Instant Personalization, your publicly available information will be shared with Yelp simply because you are on Suzy's friend list .

The good news, however, is that you can completely block Instant Personalization sites, but it takes a little more effort on your part. To stop Instant Personalization dead in its tracks, you can go to the individual Facebook pages for each Instant Personalization site, and click the 'Block Application' link underneath the application's profile picture. That way, sites like Yelp or Pandora will not be able to get at your data no matter how many times your friend Suzy visits the site.

At launch, Instant Personalization will only be available on the following sites (click on the names to go to individual Facebook application pages): Microsoft Docs.com , Pandora and Yelp . You can find more information about Instant Personalization on Facebook's FAQ page .

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