Want to Know What Facebook Is Saying About You? Try This Tool

21 Comments

Interested in finding out what information Facebook is sharing about you through the company’s new open-graph API? Developer Ka-Ping Yee has come up with a simple tool that shows you everything the social network sends to anyone whose app or service decides to plug in to the new feature — all it requires is a user ID or user name. You can find out what information you’re sharing via your public profile by looking at your settings within Facebook,too, of course. But Yee’s tool shows you exactly what data a developer would get when it asks Facebook for info via the API, such as your name, birth date, location, etc. and also any public information such as your “likes” (formerly pages you were a “fan” of), your photos and so on.

As of yesterday, the tool was also showing some information that most users had not made public. Yee — a Canadian-born programmer who works for Google’s (s goog) charitable arm, Google.org, and developed the “people finder” tool used after the Haiti earthquake — found that the API was showing what events he had recently attended, and even those he was planning to attend, information he didn’t recall giving Facebook access to (another developer says the old API provided this as well).

Thanks in part to Yee flagging the issue in a blog post and contacting the social network, Facebook now appears to have fixed it so that the API no longer makes this available by default (the developer says that his experiments with the Facebook API were the result of “personal dabbling” and don’t have anything to do with his work for Google).

Even though this glitch has been fixed, however, Yee’s tool has managed to surprise even some of the savviest tech users with what it reveals. Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr and Hunch.com, for example, on Twitter called it “immensely useful [and] potentially scary. I’m a sophisticated privacy vet & found things I hadn’t known I was sharing!”

Facebook has come under fire from a number of sources over privacy related to its new features, particularly the fact that users have been “opted in” to services such as “instant personalization,” which allows several sites that Facebook has partnered with to show users personalized content by drawing on their Facebook profile. Four senators sent the social network a letter today complaining about this kind of behavior, one of whom has also written a letter of complaint to the Federal Trade Commission.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): Who Owns Your Data in the Cloud?

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user dirac3000

21 Comments

hera

For everyone who actually took a minute to read this, you’ll also notice that FB has ALREADY fixed this. Which means your data no longer shows up. But it used to.

Create Avatar

Yeah, nothing there for me except for picture and general info. Google was going to share private info with “buzz”, I think they are just mad that facebook did it while they couldn’t. :)

Shevonne

Doesn’t say much about me. Wonder if it’s cause of my privacy settings or cause I’m boring =P

Ric

It sounds so contrite but this is just another example of FB getting away from what made it great and cultivating its strategy to sell out its user base for the big payday. Thank you, but noooo I DONT want you to personalize my Internet!

carol

When I do this little experiment, I see a list of folders. I click on the folders and there is either no data in the folder or I get an error message. Is this because I have my privacy settings locked down? Or does this app just not work?
I am assuming the app is supposed to actually access my personal data from outside of facebook and impress me with how much of a piece of swiss cheese facebook is. Either I don’t get how it works or it failed.

Roie

There’s nothing there that you can’t see if trying to access your account while logged in as a non friend user.
Like in any other web environment (such as blog comments) you have to be aware of privacy issues.

AJ

If the tool shows No data for individual pages, does that mean my data is private (or that I have no data on FB)?

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