By Mac Jaehnert
By now most Facebook users have seen the ubiquitous "Be Like Bill" memes that have seemingly taken over the world's most popular social network. To create these graphics, the apps involved use data generated by direct user input (quizzes, polls, etc), or more worryingly, by pulling data directly from your Facebook profile. While these apps can provide a fun diversion, it's important to recognize the privacy implications of allowing an application unfettered access to your personal information.
For example, an app claiming to tell you which of your friends you look most similar to would likely need to access your friends' profile pictures in order to generate a result. However, if that app is also asking for access to your work history and educational background, that should raise some red flags as to whether you should proceed.
Facebook asks users' permission before granting any app access to data, and itemizes which pieces of data (Name, email, friends list, photos, work history, education, etc) the app is requesting access to. Users should carefully look through each item to determine whether or not it's necessary for the app to perform its function, like allowing the Spotify app to access one's list of friends to show what songs they're listening to.
The terms of service for Bobla, the company claiming to originate the meme (until recently - according to ABC13 Houston) stated "You will allow us to use, edit your content with our service permanently, no limit and no recover." Those are not the words of a company one should trust with their personal information.
The Better Business Bureau has also warned recently against growing instances of other "click bait" scams involving IQ tests, credit reports, and exclusive celebrity photos.
Unless users proactively revoke these apps' access to their Facebook accounts, businesses can retain access to this data in perpetuity. To review which apps have access to your account and remove any that don't serve a specific purpose, visit Facebook on a desktop computer, click the down arrow in the upper right hand corner, select "apps" on the left hand side and review each to ensure it's only accessing what it needs to (screenshot below). I bet many Facebook users would be surprised by the number of apps that are sneakily collecting their data behind their backs.
Mac Jaehnert is a digital marketing consultant, founder of MJ Media, and VP of Social Media for the Colorado American Marketing Association.