Last week, Facebook added a suite of new features that let websites like Pandora and Docs.com access some of your personal information and use it to instantly personalize your experience. Pandora, for example, will recommend streaming music stations built around artists you’ve Liked on Facebook in the past.
Most of the time this information is harmless and you shouldn’t worry too much about it being used for nefarious purposes, but if you want to err on the side of caution, you can actually opt out of the program for privacy reasons — the option is called “Instant Personalization” and it’s sitting deep inside of Facebook’s privacy settings pages.
Opting Out at Specific Sites
You can either turn Instant Personalization off entirely at Facebook, or you can opt out at individual websites on a case-by-case basis. The latter is easy; the first time you arrive a website that uses Instant Personalization, a bar will appear at the top of the page letting you know that’s what’s happening and giving you the option to either accept that or to tell it “no thanks.”
Blocking Instant Personalization For All Sites
The feature is on by default when you first arrive at a site, though, and if you’re sure you never want to use it anywhere, you can dig deep from your Facebook home page to make sure no other website can ever access your Facebook information for Instant Personalization purposes. To do that, start by clicking on “Account” in the upper-right corner of the Facebook homepage. Select “Privacy Settings” from the list that drops down below.
You’ll be presented with a list of five privacy settings pages. You can do a lot with these pages — customize who can see your profile info and news feed updates, for example — but the option we’re looking for now is right in the middle: “Applications and Websites.” Give that a click.
There it is at the bottom of this list: “Instant Personalization.” Consider clicking “Learn More” by the top item, too, though, as it explains exactly how your other privacy settings affect what information is shared with other applications and websites. Anyway, click “Edit Setting” by “Instant Personalization” at the bottom.
This last stop in the rabbit hole tells you what Instant Personalization does, and provides a lone check box at the bottom to enable or disable it. It’s on by default. Click the check box to turn it off.
There you go. It’s done! Facebook won’t share your personal information with websites for Instant Personalization again until you re-enable this feature. You can do that by going back and re-checking the box at any time, so if you decide you want the new features after all, this isn’t irreversible.
Preventing Friends From Sharing Your Info
You should be aware that friends can still sometimes share your information from their own profiles with websites even though this is turned off. This is easy to change. Just jump back one level to “Applications and Websites” and click “Edit Settings” by the second option — “What your friends can share about you” — instead of “Instant Personalization.
Here you can check and un-check boxes to specify what information your friends’ connections can share with other applications and websites. If you un-check everything here, none of your information will be shared. It’s nice to be able to choose exactly what you are and aren’t comfortable with, though.