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Facebook Privacy Tip: How to Disable Sharing in Social Reader Apps

Nov 21, 20113 mins
Data and Information SecurityFacebookInternet

Facebook’s new “seamless sharing” apps, which the company announced at this year’s F8 developer conference, are causing a stir as more users are unintentionally subscribing to them and broadcasting their reading habits to their networks.

You’ve probably seen them in your Ticker–posts from friends that say which online articles they’re reading from apps such as The Washington Post Social Reader, Yahoo and The Guardian.

These apps are part of the “new class of apps” that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in September. They’re intended to “let you express who you are through the things you do,” for example rather than “liking” an article as users traditionally do, you show the things you like.

The problem: When you click on a Ticker item to read the story a friend has shared, Facebook asks you to add the app to continue. If you choose to add the app–and don’t restrict the privacy settings from this page–Facebook will publish subsequent stories you read to your friends’ Tickers and to your profile.

What most users don’t realize, however, is that you can choose “Cancel,” and Facebook will still automatically send you to the article. This option lets you avoid having to tweak your privacy settings and ensures your reading habits aren’t broadcasted to your network.

If you’re unsure whether or not you’re using any of these social sharing apps, you can find out by visiting your Privacy Settings page and clicking on “Edit Settings” next to “Apps and Websites.” On the subsequent page, you’ll see all the apps you’ve authorized. Click “Edit Settings” to adjust an app’s permissions and the privacy settings.

By default, the apps request permission to “add app activity” to your profile, which means that it can publish the stories you’ve read. To remove this permission, click the X next to “Add app activity to your timeline.”

If you also want to restrict who can see posts and activity from this app, you’ll need to change your privacy settings. To do this, choose “custom” from the drop-down menu next to “App activity privacy.”

If you don’t want your reading activity published to your network, choose “Only Me” from the drop-down menu next to “These people or lists.” Or, if you want to allow or omit certain people from viewing your activity, do so by creating custom lists.

Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and Web 2.0 for Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at