Home New App Helps Keep Facebook’s Hands Off Your Data

New App Helps Keep Facebook’s Hands Off Your Data

A new application aims to put users back in control of their private data stored on the increasingly public social networking site, Facebook. With “The Green Safe” app, Facebook users can now export their profile data for offsite storage on Green Safe’s servers. Data can then be purged from Facebook itself, allowing only friends to view profile information by way of a profile page tab labeled “My Info.”

Privacy Concerns for Facebook Users

With the ever-growing concern about Facebook’s data-sharing policies – policies that are now under attack from several U.S. senators – people are becoming more concerned about how personal information shared with the world’s largest social networking site is being used.

After already having been blindsided with “recommended settings” that automatically publicized previously private data like status updates and photos, Facebook users are now dealing with even more changes that have major privacy implications. Recently announced initiatives include things like “instantly personalized” websites that tap into your Facebook data without prior authorization, revamped profile pages where every interest of yours from bands to books is made public and new terms for Facebook application developers that allow apps to store your data indefinitely.

Despite these radical changes on Facebook’s part, few users are actually deleting their Facebook accounts. Although the privacy concerns are troubling, the social network has become more than a simple pastime for many people. Instead, it has transformed into a communication tool nearly as vital as email for staying in touch with networks of friends, family, co-workers and other colleagues.

Now instead of deleting your Facebook account, The Green Safe app offers a viable alternative: keep Facebook, but remove Facebook’s ability to access your data. And with the data gone from Facebook, application developers and their partners are also out of luck… at least those whose apps you install going forward.

How “The Green Safe” Works

To use The Green Safe, you grant it access just like any other Facebook application, quiz or game, then tell it to “Import Your Data.” After the import is complete, follow the instructions provided to add the app to a tab on your Facebook profile. It will appear as a tab labeled “My Info”, which only your friends can see. At this point, you can return to your Facebook profile and delete the information stored there, removing it from Facebook’s control.

This is a somewhat ingenious workaround to the data-privacy situation on Facebook – using Facebook’s own application platform against them. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that your personal data is now completely and entirely private, either.

The Green Safe’s homepage clearly states that the app “may use your info to serve up ads that target your interests.” In other words, your personal data may be made into a marketing tool. However, the privacy policy does assure that the company will not “share, trade or sell your information with anyone.”

So with The Green Safe you may see a few ads in the future, it seems. Still, that’s nothing worse that what Facebook already does. (If you’ve ever wondered why Facebook’s ads are so eerily, creepily personalized, it’s because the Facebook ad platform allows advertisers the ability to very narrowly target users using the information shared on profile pages.)

With The Green Safe installed, you’re turning over your data to a company whose business relies on keeping data safe instead of the opposite: sharing it with the world, as Facebook does. It may not be a perfect solution, but it’s definitely a workaround that’s worth checking out.

Is the App Trustworthy?

The Green Safe’s application developer, LJ Jones, runs a blog here. The most recent post, “My Info is not a Commodity,” is a diatribe against Facebook’s changes. We asked Jones why we should trust his app over Facebook. This was his response:

Since I can’t offer a “Money Back Guarantee” of some sort, the best I can do is offer the following:

1. My Commitment to Users and Their Privacy.

I will not share, give, sell, trade or allow anyone to have access to user’s data that The Green Safe stores. Ever. Its theirs and not mine even if I am storing it for them. I also commit not to change this policy down the road. I would like this commitment to be know from the start so that users and media hold me to.

2. My Reputation

I am willing to put my name and reputation behind it and would like to be open about who I am and what I am doing. I give you full permission to publish any or all of this email. I also hope that people would look at my blog and read about some of the ideas and thoughts that I published before even conceiving of The Green Safe. http://blog.ljjones.com/

3. Privacy

Even though privacy seems to be eroding, I believe that people still value their privacy and that there is an opportunity for someone to give people greater control over their own privacy http://blog.ljjones.com/2009/12/zuckerberg-is-clueless.html. I hope that over time, I can do this with The Green Safe. I also believe that taking a Seth Godin “Permission Marketing” approach is much better than a “We’ve got you and your data hostage, Opt-In” approach to building a relationship with users and making money.

4. I am a Concerned Facebook User

I built the Green Safe because I am tired of the way that Facebook has been treating me and my data. Back in February of 2009 when Facebook changed their TOS regarding content, I started a group called “Facebook doesn’t own me or my content” http://www.facebook.com/group/?gid=127820105273.

5. Give Users Control

From the beginning I wanted to give users control over their own data and not decide for them or give them the run around. I have built a feature into The Green Safe that allows a users to permanently delete all of their data from the database with just two clicks. http://apps.facebook.com/thegreensafe/delete/. They are in control of deleting it at any time and they don’t have to call customer service to do it.

6. Users Can Contact Me.

If people have questions I hope they contact me. I have provided a form in the Green Safe that allows them to easily send me an email. http://apps.facebook.com/thegreensafe/feedback/

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