Facebook apps that access your Friends list are dangerous.

Originally, I had planned to post an entirely different post for this week, but a recent trend on Facebook has given me cause for great concern. I cannot remain silent knowing that there are so many out there putting themselves and their Friends at risk.

I’m talking about the growing trend in Facebook apps that access your Friends list. Some of these are appear to be harmless, listing who might be your partners in crime. However, there is a new app that is making the rounds. This particular app goes through your Friends list and their activities, and ranks your Friends in the order of those who have visited your profile the most. It might seem innocent on the surface, but in reality, it’s a violation of your Friends’  rights.

Trust me, I do get it. You want to see who has been accessing your profile. You want to see how far your posts have reached around the world. It’s a boost to the ego to see those numbers climb, but the results are skewed and do not show the organic reach of your posts.

The app in question only looks at who has visited your personal profile. For those like myself who are trying to build a public presence, this app is not going to help you understand how your posts are doing. It looks at your personal profile, not your page statistics. Your personal profile is only there to manage your pages, interact with others in discussion groups and keep family/friends up to date with your latest crazies.

The Pages feature on Facebook has all the statistics tools you need built in — there is no need to use a third party app to gather this information. For those who don’t have pages but are wanting to find their reach of their personal posts, I totally understand the allure. However, there are a few things that you need to understand about Facebook and the way it works.

Just because a person hasn’t visited your profile doesn’t mean that they haven’t seen your posts. However, just because they’re Friends with you doesn’t mean that they’ve seen them either. Facebook uses a complex algorithm to personalize a user’s newsfeed such that only certain posts will show. Most Friends get ignored and random ads show up based on your other activities. If you visit a person’s personal profile, their items will start to appear on your feed. If you interact with the posts, then more of that person’s post will show on your feed. If you stop interacting, then they slowly disappear. It’s incredibly complex and marketing experts have been trying to get around it for years, getting their carefully constructed messages onto your feed, paying a pretty penny to do it too.

But let’s come back to this new app that has me concerned. Let’s for the moment ignore the fact that you are giving permission for a third party to go through your account and access ALL of your Friends‘ details. This app actually posts the results of its analysis on Facebook for all to see. It’s results look something like this. (Note: I have masked the names and other identifying information for the privacy and protection of others. This did not come from my own feed as I won’t use the app in question.)

This is what the app discussed generates and posts to your feed. To protect the identity of the person whose feed this came from and their friends, all identifying details have been masked.

I have issues with this for multiple reasons.

First, when the app posted the information, the people listed did not give their permission to have their information shared with the world. There are some who will be angered by you sharing with the public information on their activities.

Second, this can be seen as a form of bullying. You have deliberately taken action to tell others who has been looking at your profile the most, but remember this has nothing to do with who has been actually seeing your posts — this is just who has visited your profile. Those that come further down on the list, not visible in the post, might feel hurt that you value the top ranking profiles more. Why would you even share this information publicly?

I might be blowing the whole situation out of proportion, however, I’m acutely aware of the dangers that social media presents. With apps like this one and others like it, it is too easy to become complacent and think they are completely innocent. It’s not until things like cyber-stalking and stranger danger come to your home network one realizes that perhaps sharing that innocent information was not such a good idea.

Before you use any of these apps, regardless the reason, ensure that you know exactly what it is you are trying to achieve. There is a big difference between having a little fun and putting yourself, and your Friends, at risk.

P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.

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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2017

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Posted in Hidden Traps, Social Media, Warnings and tagged , , .

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