Do you look over your shoulder as you talk to friends on Facebook, geo-tag photos, like status updates and compose tweets? What about when you send direct messages from your account? Like it or not, there are hundreds of apps that may be watching you right now, because you've unknowingly given them nearly unlimited access to your personal information.
Dozens of third parties - apps or services that operate on social media but are separate entities not controlled by their host platforms - could currently have front row seats for observing much of your online behavior. For example, any game or service that you have ever used on Facebook or Twitter may still be able to see far more of your private information than you realize, even if you last opened the app months or even years ago. Believe it or not, under your current settings, they may even be allowed to post status updates under your name without taking extra steps to alert or ask you.
It's important to check your account permissions so that you understand just how much access you have given to such apps and whether that puts you at risk of becoming a victim of cyber-criminals. If you don't recognize a third party or no longer use its service, you should immediately revoke approval. The same goes for any program that you do not trust.
- Facebook: To clean up your Facebook settings, go to the Apps page and click "Show all apps." Remember that any third party listed here has access to your name, profile picture, cover photo, gender, networks, username, user ID and friends list. Click the small "x" to the right of an app to delete it and revoke its access to your profile. Farther down on the page, you will see a section titled "Apps others use." When your friends use apps, they may also be giving them permission to share your private information. To limit what your friends' app services can learn about you, deselect the pertinent categories, such as birthday, gender, religion, interests, etc.
- Google: If you have a Gmail and/or Google Plus account, take a moment to visit the security page under settings, then select "view all apps and websites" under the Account Permissions category.
- LinkedIn: Hover your mouse over your profile picture in the upper right hand corner of your LinkedIn account, and then click on Privacy Settings. From there you will go to "Groups, Companies and Applications" and ask to view your applications.
- Twitter: If you have a Twitter account, visit the Applications page under Settings, where you will be able to see all of the third parties that you have allowed to access your profile. "Revoke access" for any that you don't recognize or use on a regular basis. Be aware that those with the notation "read and write" are allowed to tweet directly from your account, and those that say "read, write and direct
If you're like most social media users, you probably discovered that you had previously granted several obscure third parties access to your private information. If that is the case, you might want to consider investing in a credit monitoring service to mitigate your risk of identity theft. While such services cannot guarantee your protection against credit fraud, they can alert you to certain activity connected to your name, accounts and/or social security number that may indicate fraud, allowing you to take steps to address the activity, giving you some extra peace of mind.