New App Lets You Find Out What You've Exposed on Facebook

The new application "I Shared What?!?" shows users what they may have exposed on Facebook.

I don’t know whether to say that the new application “I Shared What?!?” is counterproductive or whether it simply doesn’t add any value to our experience of the social network.

That doesn’t even include the bugs that typify new software hastily rushed to market. Nick O’Neill, the founder of this blog and expert on everything having to do with Facebook told me he couldn’t get the thing to work in any meaningful way. I had slightly different results, but they still lead to the same question: Why should we log into something else to find out what we’ve already got publicly posted on our own profiles?

I told Nick that this application unwittingly fosters the public’s lack of awareness about that Facebook already has the ability to protect one’s privacy. I continue to see the same pattern among people who complain about a supposed lack of privacy on the site: these same individuals actually don’t know how to use the privacy protection features already on the site.

So while I totally understand that “I Shared What?!?” has only the best of intentions, in reality I don’t see the application as something that really improves the overall quest forbetter privacy protection on Facebook. I would rather see software that teaches people how to use the existing privacy features on the site, instead of sounding an unnecessary alarm bell, like “I Shared What?!?” does. (See also: Multiple punctuation marks’ psychological effects on web users.)

While Nick’s quick try of the software resulted in a regurgitation of his news feed, I saw what I already knew about my own privacy settings, albeit in much more simplified terms that what I’ve actually set up. After logging into the software with Facebook Connect, I was told:

You’ve just shared: your basic details, your news feed, your friends on Facebook, your shared links.

After showing you what the application thinks you’ve got available to the public, “I Shared What?!?” offers the ability to change some privacy settings, but not all of them, and certainly not to the level of granularity you can alter things on Facebook itself. I’ve got my profile on the social networking site rigged so that each of 12 different friend lists sees a different set of information depending on how the aformentioned group knows me. For example, former coworkers get a different slice of my data than relatives. None of this showed up on “I Shared What?!?” but I can prove that the dozen strata exist by using the preview features within the privacy tab on Facebook, which lets you key in different friends’ names to see how these individuals see your profile.

If “I Shared What?!?” can figure out a way to up the ante on the individual friend previews, and other features that already exist on Facebook, perhaps the application would have more utility. In the mean time, I hope the software doesn’t stir up the pot too much. Readers, what do you think of the current state of privacy on Facebook?