Wrangling your Facebook privacy settings—fine-tuning what data friends, advertisers, and apps can access—is a slog. The menus are labyrinthine, the wording obtuse. And it turns out that one of them is completely pointless. In fact, it hasn’t worked in years.
To be clear: This is not a case of Facebook sneaking one past you, at least not the way you might think. These settings no longer work because Facebook no longer allows the kind of data harvesting they control; in fact, these checks address the very data oversharing that let quiz developer Aleksander Kogan turn 270,000 installs into a menagerie of 50 million users, which he then illicitly passed along to political data firm Cambridge Analytica.
But the fact that Facebook never bothered to update that critical corner of its privacy settings, years after those changes went into effect, is downright baffling—and speaks to a general a lack of seriousness in the company’s attitude toward data transparency.
Apps With Friends
The setting in question is Apps Others Use, which you can find by signing onto Facebook, clicking the downward arrow in the upper right corner, then Settings, then Apps. (See? Labyrinth.)
Click Edit, and Facebook greets you with a list of informational categories about yourself that, a not-so-helpful description reads, your Facebook friends can “can bring with them when they use apps, games and websites.”
In truth, your friends weren’t bringing your information with them so much as developers were spring-boarding off of them to get to you. The data categories include your birthday, your activities, if you’re online, and posts on your timeline. The check-boxes number 13 in and all, with an additional three—friend list, gender, and the very broad “info you’ve