As far as I know, I never took “thisisyourdigitallife,” the personality quiz that researcher Aleksandr Kogan used to harvest 50 million Facebook profiles which he then turned over to Cambridge Analytica, the voter-profiling company that worked on the 2016 Trump campaign. But as details of this story emerged over the weekend, I was moved to check out which third-party apps I had given access to my Facebook data over the years. (Here’s my colleague Marcus Baram’s tip on how to pull up your own list.)
I can’t say that what I found stunned me, because … well, I didn’t know what to expect. But it turned out that I’ve given 300+ apps and services permission to rummage around in my Facebook data over the years.
They break down into some broad categories:
How about things that I know I want to be connected to Facebook? There are shockingly few of them. I granted Twitter access so it could push my Tweets into my Facebook news feed. I’m happy to allow apps like Nuzzel and Patreon to see my Facebook friends so I can find them on those respective services. And Ancestry grabs photos from my relatives on Facebook and adds them to my family tree, which is nice. That’s about it, though.
Now, I don’t have any reason to suspect that anyone at any of the 333 apps and services I’ve permitted to poke around my Facebook has used it for underhanded purposes, as researcher Kogan is alleged to have done. But the fact that I can’t even remember some of the names on my list tells me that I haven’t taken the whole matter seriously enough. I clicked without thinking. Over and over. For years.
Here’s what I’m going to do henceforth:
So help me, I like Facebook and have no intention of leaving it or even grinding my activity down to the bare minimum. But with very few exceptions, the value I get out of it is created by my friends and acquaintances posting stuff I care about. Almost everything else is dispensable–and my plan is to start dispensing with some of it.