Going Incognito on the Internet: Safety Tips for Using Facebook Social Reader and Apps

You’re on Facebook – who isn’t? The problem is that the site is not somewhere you want to hang around if you value your privacy. Unfortunately, most people who are on Facebook willingly give up a lot of private information which is then used by the company and third-party advertisers for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, that information is used merely to annoy you with advertising. Other times, though, it can be leaked out to who-knows-where for any number of nefarious purposes. Here’s how to protect yourself and your privacy.

Bypass The Social Reader App In Facebook

You want to read a story on Facebook but, when you click on it, it tells you that you must install another application before you can read it. That’s annoying. But, it’s more than annoying. These social reader “features” are enabled for quite a few popular sites like The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Daily Motion, and Yahoo.

Social Media Security

When you read an article using one of these apps, Facebook decides it’s a neat idea to broadcast your activity on these sites to your newsfeed. This can be embarrassing, sometimes. Other times, it feels like an invasion of your privacy. It’s sort of like your friends sitting over your shoulder watching you read the news. Creepy. Facebook apparently believes that everything should be shared.

Bypass this “feature” by canceling the window that prompts you to add the Social Reader app. You can also change the privacy settings for the reader if the app doesn’t allow you to cancel the installation. Change the privacy settings from “friends” to “only me.” You can also simply copy the story title from Facebook and paste it into Google’s search engine and read it on the web.

How To Block Social Reading Apps

If you already have a social reader installed, and you want to get rid of it, bring up your account settings and open the “Apps Settings” page. This will show all of the authorized Facebook apps that are associated with your profile. Now, search for “Social Reader” and hit the [x] next to the app. This will remove the app and your reading activity will not be broadcast to your newsfeed.

Hiding Your Email Address

You want to play games or access apps on Facebook, but you don’t want to give out your email address. Fortunately, there are a few options to avoid giving up any personally identifiable information. The easiest solution is to just use a dummy email address. This would be a free Gmail or Hotmail (Outlook) address (or any other free email service). Any time you sign up for a game or a new app, and it wants your email, give them the throwaway or dummy email.

If you want to use your real email, things get a little more complicated. You can try writing it backwards in the text box or obfuscating it in some other way, but this won’t work if the app needs your email to confirm your identity.

Alternatives for Sharing

Facebook and social media sites like Twitter are not the only way to share files with family and friends. In fact, when it comes to bigger file sizes, users are turning to alternative ways of sharing. Many sporting enthusiasts who record their endeavors on video end up with file sizes that simply don’t work on social media accounts. People are turning to Peer-2-Peer (P2P) file sharing. By using free software from companies like Vuze.com, users are able to share large file sizes without needing to upload these large files on third party servers.

Being aware of how to be safe online is a must in today’s world. It also pays to become aware of alternative technologies that could be more apt to your needs.

Corey Dudley is passionate about web security. He blogs about simple ways for the common internet user to keep personal information and intellectual property safe while surfing the web.

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