My Opinion on Branch Out for Facebook Has Changed…Slightly

Wow. I’m truly floored by all the views and comments from my blog post on this subject back in January of 2011. Apparently, the subject of professional networking sites on Facebook and their privacy is still a hot button a year later. I’ve been asked to update my thoughts on the Branch Out application specifically and well, you might be surprised as to what I have to say.

One year ago, Branch Out was an obtrusive application that …well… pissed me off. No, really it did. At the time, I had several friends that had installed it and as such sent invitations to me to join them through the application and often times I not only declined but I deleted them too, not because I no longer wanted to be their “Friend”. Rather, I just didn’t want my profile image, access to my work & education history, access to my Friends List, etc. associated with the application even if I chose not to join in the fun.  Now, that has changed ever so slightly.

I still don’t agree that professional networking applications have any business being on what is essentially very much a personal network for most people…at least for the majority of my 560+ Friends it is (That’s gotta say something, right?). However, a year ago there was no way to block such applications (or no way that I could tell anyway). Today, there is….and that’s what makes me happy!

Image by Lisa Sullivan. (c) 2012. All Rights Reserved.

As far as I can tell, once a User blocks the application, it no longer has access to any User information as long as that User has edited their privacy settings to indicate their information isn’t to be shared with third party apps their friends may elect to use (see below for instructions on how to do that). However, by default Facebook still shares my picture, name, gender, networks, and username and user id (account number) as they are all always publicly available, including to apps. THAT’s why I’m just happy; not ecstatic.

So, I resigned myself. I figure as long as there are some things I can block through privacy settings or an app itself, I have effectively limited the amount of information my Friends have access to via the Branch Out app (or any 3rd party app for that matter). Sure, the profile picture of me and a friend smiling away is now associated with my name in a Friend’s Branch Out Profile. Oh well. But, if someone clicks on it, they’ll only get what Facebook has made publicly available by default. I guess I can live with that.

If you’ve been reading my blog or read the initial post that sparked this sequel (hat tip to Debra for suggesting it!), are you surprised by my revelation? 🙂

And just so you know…I have “re-instated” a couple of Friends since I deleted them a year ago simply because I came to the above conclusion. Heck. I missed ’em! Those are some good peeps!!

Still wondering…what do you think about Branch Out or any professional networking application on Facebook? Would love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below.

In the meantime, here are the instructions to set your privacy settings so that 3rd party applications don’t have access to much of your profile when used by Friends and the application’s permissions request certain information:

  • Go to your “Privacy Settings” (accessed via the down arrow next to “home”)
  • Click Edit Settings to the far right of “Apps and Websites”
  • Click Edit Settings to the far right of “How people bring your info to apps they use”
  • Un-check anything you wish not to be shared with third party apps
  • Click “Save Changes”

That’s it!

8 Responses to “My Opinion on Branch Out for Facebook Has Changed…Slightly”
  1. Anonymous says:

    When you block an app on Facebook, it can still access your data.

    If one of your ‘Friends’ allows the app access, anything that you have made available to that friend is now accessible by the app- irrespective of your setting.


  2. lisa pluth says:

    Hey Lisa, I went and looked at Fb… Actually it looks to me like the lists of friend’s friends ARE still available to anyone that opts into BranchOut. It clearly says that unless all platform applications are turned off the application DOES have access to your friends. Love your posts though. Thanks!

    • Hmmm…you got me thinking now, Lisa. It does say – “If you don’t want apps and websites to access other categories of information (like your friend list, gender or info you’ve made public), you can turn off all Platform apps.” (in Privacy Settings/Apps and Websites/How People Bring Info to Apps They Use). I had turned off my friends list previously (when it was possible to do so). However, you’ve caused me to take a second look and you are right – your friend’s list is public. Well, darn. That is disheartening to me…and I’m actually quite peeved now. I think you’ve inspired another blog post on the topic. Stay tuned!

      BUT, with that said, if you notice in the screenshot above, if I allow Branch Out THEN it has access to my Friend’s List. By not allowing that App, it doesn’t have access. It’s confusing and misleading, I know. I had to take a second look myself. What makes it misleading is this statement in Privacy Settings –

      “On Facebook, your name, profile picture, gender, networks, username and user id (account number) are always publicly available, including to apps (Learn Why). Also, by default, apps have access to your friends list and any information you choose to make public.”

      I am choosing to believe there’s a typo in there. Where it says, “…apps have access to your friends list…” I think what it means is it should say, “…apps that you have authorized have access to your friends list…” BECAUSE otherwise it’s an oxymoron to have the verbiage listed in the screenshot under “Access My Basic Information” if by default it already has the access. Make sense?

      BUT, this is good food for thought and I’m going to research it some more.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting!

  3. Lisa, thank you for your follow-up! I just read your sequel and agree with your updated analysis. One question: Why do you allow ANY apps on FB? I find it far easier to maintain my privacy there by saying “NO apps allowed”. [It also keeps me from endless hours of game-playing. Scrabble would be the end of me!] Thanks again for your added research!

    • Hi Debra! Thanks for reading the follow up. I’m glad you found it helpful.

      As for Apps, I do let select ones in…not the games & silly stuff, but the ones that make sense for how I share socially, apps like Hootsuite (for Twitter), Meetup (to share when I’m attending interesting gatherings), Eventbrite (the same as Meetup), Foursquare (for when I check-in or check-out of locations), (to automatically post my latest blog post), Instagram (to share photos), etc. See where I’m going with this? Those apps I do allow.

      My Facebook profile is locked pretty tight (as tight as I can lock it anyway), but I do a lot of social sharing so it makes sense to allow those apps. Might be an oxymoron but oh well. 🙂

      Thanks again for reading and commenting!

  4. Michael Eayrs says:

    Thanks for the privacy settings info. I unchecked almost everything.

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