Facebook Launches a Mobile Applications Privacy Dashboard for m.facebook.com

Facebook is adding privacy controls for applications and websites to the m.facebook.com mobile interface. Users will be able to access the recently launched Applications, Games, and Websites Privacy Dashboard to view which parties have access to their profile, rescind permissions, control what info is shared with the apps of friends, and restrict who can see their app and game activity.  The mobile controls, which are being rolled out over the next few weeks, will allow users to quickly respond to privacy concerns while away from their computers.

Mobile privacy controls have been a focus of updates to many of Facebook’s mobile sites and apps over the past six months. Access to controls over content sharing, communication, and basic directory information were added to m.facebook.com in August. iPhone users gained the ability to restrict status updates to certain people on a post by post basis, and in November received quick links to Account and Privacy settings on the full site. The changes shows that Facebook recognizes how access to privacy controls is crucial to keeping its 200 million users sharing through their mobile devices.

Last month, Facebook launched single-sign on for mobile applications, allowing apps to piggyback on the a user’s login to Facebook through their native Facebook app such as Facebook for iPhone. Since apps no longer have to explicitly require users to enter their credentials to let them access their data, mobile application privacy controls became necessary to control that access. The turnaround time of just over a month for implementing these controls is admirable.

Once access to the controls has been rolled out to a user, they can navigate to them by visiting m.facebook.com/privacy or by clicking “Settings” at the bottom of their mobile page, then “Privacy Settings (change)”. There users will see an Applications and Websites section they can click through to make changes.

First, users see the Applications You Use section, where they can view a list of allowed apps listed in order of which was the last to access their data. Clicking through to an app reveals options to remove the app, rescind optional permissions, and what data was last accessed. These controls make it easy to tell if a user has given an app access or not, and stop apps which are abusing this access, such as those posting to a user’s wall or sending emails too frequently.

Info Accessible lets users allow or deny access to each category of their profile data and content to apps their friends are using. Many users don’t realize that even if they don’t use any third-party apps or websites, these parties may be accessing their data through friends who are less cautious. The addition of these controls to the mobile interface could increase awareness.

Lastly, the Game and Application Activity section lets users select who can see that they’ve installed an app or made a request for friends to join or help them in a game. As more Facebook Platform social games move onto mobile devices, the ability to switch to playing privately through the same interface will become more important.

The mobile optimized privacy controls make it quicker and easier to make changes that using a mobile browser to visit the slow-loading full site. It’s worth noting that Facebook consistently uses images of Apple’s iPhone when blogging about updates to the m.facebook.com interface — which is available on all mobile handset browsers. The lack of images depicting Android handsets lends a little more weight to the idea that Facebook may be purposefully pushing the iPhone over Google-powered phones. This could be to suppress the search giant’s mobile presence as Google plans the launch of a competing social product which may be deeply integrated with the Android platform.

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