Thousands of apps are accessing your data on Facebook—how to disconnect them

Clicking “connect with Facebook” when logging onto a new site may seem like an easy time-saver, but it could be putting your privacy in danger.

Facebook suspended 200 apps that had access to large amounts of user data, the company announced this week. The suspension comes as Facebook FB, -0.61%  is under fire for its relationship with Cambridge Analytica, a company that harvested the data of 87 million users through a quiz that users opted into through their Facebook pages.

Facebook did not respond to request for comment on the report, but last month Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told CNN that the company would audit every app that has access to a large amount of information. “We need to make sure that there aren’t any other Cambridge Analyticas out there, right?” he said. “Or folks who have not improperly accessed data.”

Some 25,936 apps use Facebook login services aggressively export user data, according to a report released in April by cybersecurity company TrustLook. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Trustlook’s study: It didn’t include hackers or malware, but merely looked at apps that request more information than is necessary and then reuse that information in ways the user did not understand or approve of.

In other words, that’s very similar to what Cambridge Analytica allegedly did with users’ data, said Chris Morales, the head of security analytics at cybersecurity company Vectra.

When you give permission for games and other apps to access your Facebook account, third-party companies can often crawl your phone and retrieve more of your personal data than you may realize, including your friends’ contact information, said Neil Hughes, vice president of One World Identity Labs, a security and identity company.

“If you’ve been on Facebook for any amount of time, it’s a good—and somewhat alarming—exercise to see which apps have access to your Facebook profile,” he said. “Given the recent chatter regarding the company’s data practices, I went and did this myself, and found what was essentially a graveyard of apps from bygone eras—services that no longer existed, but yet somehow still had authorization to access my personal information.”

But users do have some control. To review what permissions you give apps through Facebook, follow these steps:

• Go to “account settings.”

• Click “apps” on the left-hand sidebar.

• Click the “X” on the right of each app to revoke access to your data.

• Confirm “remove” when the window prompts you to do so.

You can also disable Facebook’s “platform” feature, which stops Facebook from integrating with games and other apps for login purposes in the future. Facebook users get a dire-sounding warning about how Facebook will perform differently if they take this step, but it won’t make a huge difference for most users.

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