Let’s face it, your life is on Facebook. Your friends and family’s lives are too. How about your clients and business partners? Yep, they’re all active Facebook users.  Now here’s a vital question: On a scale of 1-10 What value would you assign to you and your families personal data?

I hope you said 10!

According to a recent article on internet security published in Consumer Reports Magazine:

“More than 5 million online U.S. households experienced some type of abuse on Facebook in the past year…” moreover, “[Facebook’s] position as the king of social networks has made Facebook the custodian of arguably the nation’s largest collection of details about consumer’s personal lives”

You name it, Marketers, Headhunters, Lawyers…all of these professionals use Facebook as an invaluable data resource. (Not to mention Identity thieves!) In mere seconds these individuals can find out all kinds of interesting things about you: where you’re going on vacation; who you were cheating on your spouse with; and yes, incriminating pics your friend tagged you in from that less-than professional night out on the town!

Add the 3rd party app element to this equation– combined with people using such apps on their iphones, blackberries, and other smartphone devices – and more risks arise, most unnerving is How Mobile Apps Track you, an issue that has gone all the way to the U.S. senate.

Facebook’s private policy even states “… that when you connect with an app or website it will have access to general information about you.”

In this post we’ll focus on Facebook app usage and how it directly affects your online security. Here are 3 vital questions you need to be asking yourself :

QUESTION 1: How many apps am I currently using on Facebook? Don’t know? Here’s the way to check:

  1. Go to Account ->  Privacy Settings
  2. Under “Apps and Websites”, click “Edit Your Settings”, click “Edit Settings” next to “Apps You Use.”
  3. From here, you can define settings for each one listed or simply delete unwanted apps altogether.
QUESTION 2: Are apps accessing my data through my friend network? Now that you’ve brought yourself up-to-speed on just what App-age your holstering on your Facebook account, make sure you regulate how your “friends” who use apps can or cannot access your information.
  1. Locate the “Apps, Games and Websites” screen.
  2. Find “Info Accessible Through Your Friends” and click “Edit Settings”
  3. It’s advisable to UNcheck all personal information (aka: birthday, family, relationships, ect.)

QUESTION 3: I found an app that I really WANT to use, so how can I make sure it’s safe and my personal data wont be jeopardized?

Before you download ANY app, do your homework! You wouldn’t let just anybody watch your home for you when your away, would you? Especially if they offer to do it for FREE! So why do you grant any old app access to your personal information? Probably because it’s free and looks cool.  You should guard access to your online information as you would the key to your home.

That said, we are not trying to steer you away from using apps. In fact, we are HUGE fans of apps–just check out our App of the Week Series featuring some of the most powerful tools out there to increase productivity and streamline work processes. We simply suggest that you do some research first before you download. Make sure others are already using the app via forums, reputable blogs, or reviews online.  Take a peak at the developer of the app, and what else they are working on. And definitely take the time to see what the permissions requests are really asking. If you’re still unsure, call someone from the company, ask them: How much of my information are you accessing and what are you planning on doing with it?

After all, the app may be free or cheap, but your personal information certainly shouldn’t be.