The tagline up high is “share what you read with your friends!”, which sounds innocent and useful enough. I like to share links to stories I think other people should read. Up high it says, “Okay, Read Article,” and when you push that button, it installs the app. There’s nothing telling you directly that you’re installing an app. A box in the bottom corner says “This app may post on your behalf, including articles you read, people you liked and more,” but how many people actually read that? Your mom’s on Facebook now probably, as is mine—guaranteed she doesn’t understand what’s happening here.
Not only does this stuff show up in my news feed several times a day (Yahoo’s app is also a frequent offender), but you can also go in there and click on your friends who have the app to see what they’ve read. The history goes back months. Jeff Bercovici reported back in the fall that even if you set the Post’s Social Reader to not let anyone see what you’ve read, friends can still go in and see what you’ve read. That’s egregious.
Again, this is all fine if people really know about all of this. But many of them don’t, especially with a feature like that.
I wrote this on Twitter this morning:
For God’s sake, people of Facebook—turn off your news apps. Your reading habits are embarrassing.
And Henry Blodget, shameless purveyor of the kind of clickbait that you’d be embarrassed to have others find out you read, pipes up to respond, “Nope. Just the truth.”
The truth, of course, is very often embarrassing, as Blodget, of all people, knows full well.
But the truth of what people actually read is irrelevant here. The point is that many, many people aren’t choosing to share their tabloid reading habits. They’re being forced to by major media organizations who profit by having them, often unknowingly, spam their friends with their content.
And that’s not right.
So if you’re on Facebook, go to your privacy settings, edit your “Apps and websites” settings, and delete these apps—or at least make sure they’re not sharing information you don’t want shared.