• Blocking quiz / test apps from accessing your Facebook information

Here’s what I posted on Facebook recently

Your friends are the weakest link, mine too

Every time I spot that you’ve taken some test on Facebook and shared your results here I block the app that you used. This is because, when you authorise the app to interact with your page, it is then able to interact with mine* (and can, I assume from the wording below, access non-public information). Which I’d rather it didn’t. Obviously I will miss some because Fb won’t show me everything.

How to block apps etc https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=blocking

*because you can see my page and the app can access what you can access

Screenshot 2017-11-16 00.56.06.png

If you scroll down that page there are several options for blocking or restricting various things. At the time of writing (Nov 2017) the list is

  • Restricted list
  • Block users
  • Block messages
  • Block app invites
  • Block event invitations
  • Block apps
  • Block pages

The last two are particularly useful for dodgy looking quizzes and tests. As far as I can tell when your friends take a test they authorise the app to access their page. Their page can access all your info, so my supposition is that the app can access all your info too. This is borne out in the format of the help text Facebook uses to clarify what happens when you block an app (in the picture above) – “Once you block an aapp, it can no longer contact you or get non-public information about you through Facebook.” Hmm, the ‘non-public information’ bit made me wonder, so I have blocked – over the years – over 260 of these apps I think, here is my full list.

It’s very simple to block, just start typing the name of the offending app and autofill options will appear (if not you’d need to visit the app’s page and see if you can work out who is behind it). If an app doesn’t show up in the Block Apps dialogue box try it in the Block Pages option lower down.

Of course once someone’s authorised an app it’s already (presumably) been able to harvest some of your info so you can request that individual app owners remove that data by contacting the developer directly. I have not done this, I probably should.. but…

Further reading

 

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Opting out of Twitter’s 3rd party community-building apps

There are a number of services that tell you how many followers you’ve gained this week, or that suggest people to follow etc. While these might be very useful for you or your company, in terms of building your network and getting an idea of various metrics, some of the services also send automatic thank you tweets to other people that have engaged with you. Many people find these types of tweets exceptionally irritating, I am one of them.

People who are not using the apps themselves are receiving tweets from those who are using them, but the senders are often unaware that the apps are sending out these types of tweet.

Twitter has best practice guidelines for apps that send automated replies.

“Users must also have a clear and easy way to opt-out of receiving automated reply messages and mentions from your application.” – Automation rules and best practices | Twitter Help Center (updated 7 April 2016)

In April 2017 Twitter updated its Automation page for developers “However, you may send automated replies or mentions to Twitter users so long as you provide a clear and easy way for such users to opt-out of receiving automated replies and mentions, and promptly honor all such opt-out requests” from Section 2. Posting automated mentions and replies.

If someone you interact with uses commun.it, for example, then you might receive an automated tweet from them thanking you for following, RTing, engaging, or being a ‘top influencer’. Often these tweets are not sent as standard reply to you only, but sent as public tweet (to all their followers and with several people mentioned) thereby maximising its reach. Each tweet includes a link to commun.it’s website advertising its product in the hope that others will sign up. I’m honestly surprised that Twitter permits this sort of thing – unsolicited automated replies sent to large numbers of users advertising services. Commun.it is probably the worst spammer but there are several others.

If you’ve received an unwanted tweet via one of these services below you should be able to opt out with these instructions. You don’t need to create an account with them in order to opt out, if you don’t want their users to tweet you through their service they should honour that.

If it’s your account that’s sending stuff out…

Log into the desktop version of Twitter and go to your Settings > Apps page and revoke the app, then change your password. If that doesn’t work then you may need to visit the App’s website and see if you can edit settings on your ‘account’ (often generated automatically once you’ve authorised the app, so log in with Twitter). If that fails search for the name of the app on Twitter and see if there’s a customer services person (eg @Linkishelp for Linkis).

  • c0nvey (note, spelled with the number zero) – appears to use Linkis
  • Linkis or Link.is – read this excellent guide by @kevwyke on how to stop this parasitical linking system. If you authorise it it will add ‘link.is/’ to every link you send out, which encourages other people to sign up and authorise it and so on. Pointless spam.

If someone else’s account is sending you stuff…

If you’ve signed up to use one of these services and have since thought better of it then you can revoke the app’s permission to use your account in the app bit of your settings.