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Facebook apps must now seek permission for user data

What took so &#@!ing long?

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In a move hailed by privacy advocates, Facebook on Wednesday deployed a feature that allows its users to better control what personal information can be accessed by third-party applications and websites.

The new authorization process, which Facebook CTO Bret Taylor announced in a blog post, is activated whenever a user installs a new application or first logs into an external website using a Facebook account. It presents a dialog box that details the user information that is accessed by the app or website and requires the user to click a button before the data is shared.

The new request box comes in stark contrast to years of Facebook policy, which has opted to apologize profusely after the fact for liberties taken with user data rather than ask for informed consent ahead of time. As the social networking site struggles to monetize its more than 400 million active users, it has repeatedly loosened default privacy settings, angering those who preferred to shield their friends, pictures and other data from world+dog.

Wednesday's move was praised by the Center for Democracy and Technology, which has long argued that Facebook puts users' privacy at risk. The new dialog box not only gives users better control over their data, it has the capability of doing a lot more.

“The new permissions model also creates real incentives for application developers to minimize their data collection: now that they have to be transparent about what types of data they are collecting, application developers may think twice before asking for access to information in excess of what they need to deliver their advertised product,” CDT's Erica Newland wrote.

Facebook's Taylor reiterated that users can always revoke permissions by removing apps from the applications settings page. ®

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