Facebook is perhaps the largest online identity database, with millions of users pouring out chunks of their lives daily on the website. With activities of this magnitude, arises some big concerns of privacy, and there has been an on-going debate as to why and what Facebook makes public regarding its users. With the release of Facebook’s new Open Graph API, more and more users have begun to ask what Facebook is making public of their online existences.
Developer Ka-Ping Yee has utilized the new API to create an online tool that allows you to see what of your information is available for public viewing.
To use this tool, visit the link (given at the end of this post), enter your Facebook ID and hit Go. Your Facebook ID is the part after ‘facebook.com/*’ when you visit your profile page (as you can see mine in the screenshot above). In case you haven’t set up an alias for your profile, it would be in the form of a numeric string at the end of your profile page URL. Finally, if all comes to nothing, you can search for your or your friends’ name or email addresses.
The results are displayed with your name, ID, profile link and metadata, among a few other things. Everything that is displayed outside the ‘metadata’ box is publicly viewable, for instance, your full name and location. However, even within the metadata, you may want to check out individual items because they too can be publically viewable. If a metadata item returns the result “data (empty)”, you’re safe. But if some of the results turn up like the one shown below, all items under that node are viewable to any website that uses the Open Graph API.
It is rather important to monitor your privacy settings. Facebook offers extensive privacy controls and options to review them, but over the period of time they’ve only become more confusing and difficult to understand. A third-party tool like this one can be really useful for double-checking that nothing you don’t want is being shared with the rest of the world.
Also remember that this tool only tests the information that’s available to public; your friends and family are a totally different story. Furthermore, the applications that you’ve allowed would probably be able to see much more than the metadata information displayed here.
In the end, Facebook is a great social networking tool, but at the same time, it is of vital importance to pay attention to maintaining your privacy in your online life. Network smart and play safe, and you’ll get the most out of any online service.