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Are apps exposing you to ID theft?

A new website makes it easy to filter the applications you've given permission to access your information on 8 social media sites.

By Giselle Smith Jan 11, 2012 4:46PM

If you use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr and have an email account with Google or Yahoo, chances are you've given permission to a few applications to access your profile. But do you know how many?

Given how complicated it can be to find the permissions settings for each site, you may not think it's worth the time to find out. But not doing so could make you vulnerable to phishing schemes and other forms of identity theft. And, chances are, the number of apps that have access to your information is more than you think.

Monitoring can take less time than you think too. Using a new website called MyPermissions you can find out -- in as little as two minutes, according to Mashable --which apps you've given access to your profile on eight popular sites, including Facebook and LinkedIn.

When you add an app to one of your social media accounts -- even just to play a game -- it asks for permission to monitor certain information related to your account. You might use the app once and forget it, but unless you revoke that permission, it remains active.

"While this is pretty harmless in most cases, malicious apps can misuse this permission to post something on Facebook/Twitter or any other site through which you let them in," PC Geek Blog said.

Applications that have permission to access your profile information can potentially put that information at risk, warns Naked Security: "And, in the case of Facebook, it could put your friends' information at risk, as well."

Or, as Netted put it: "It's all fun and games until someone loses a Social Security number."

MyPermissions simplifies the review process by assembling direct links to each site's permissions in one place.

A solution born from frustration

Israel-based entrepreneur Avi Charkham created the site out of his own frustration with finding app permission pages on social media sites. "I kept connecting to services, and one day I was looking for the list to remove some of them," he told Mashable. "I found that Facebook hid them behind four or five links … and thought to myself, 'There's no way people can find this.' Two clicks I could live with, but four or five made it clear they were hiding it."

MyPermissions has a growing number of fans, with more than 275 user comments (in multiple languages) posted on the site as of Tuesday. Many posted thanks and some called the idea "brilliant," "awesome" or "cool." Post continues below.

Most users wrote that they had no idea how many apps they had given permission to access their profiles, and couldn't remember what many of the apps did.

How the site works

The simple website's single page is dominated by eight familiar icons that link directly to each social media site's permissions page. Just below the icons, a link takes visitors to an If This Then That page, where they can sign up for a monthly email reminder to visit MyPermissions and go through the cleaning process again.

Click on the Facebook icon, for example, and you'll be taken to the "App Settings" page on your Facebook account. You'll only be asked for login information if you are not already signed in to Facebook. MyPermissions does not collect any of your personal information, names or passwords.

Note: The website does not automatically disable apps, rate them or advise you as to which you should keep or delete. That's up to you to decide. MyPermissions simply helps you get to the appropriate place to find out which apps have access to your profile -- and where you can disable them if you so choose.

A general rule of thumb from Graham Cluley on Naked Security: "If you used to use the site/app but don't anymore, it may be worth zapping it."

I only found a few apps on LinkedIn, one on Facebook and none on Twitter, Yahoo or Google, so I finished in less than a minute. The two-minute estimate came from Mashable's Sarah Kessler, who wrote:

There are more than 130 Facebook app developers with access to my profile. Sixty-eight apps have permission to post to my Twitter feed, eight of them can access my LinkedIn data and another eight are connected to my Gmail account.

Taking steps to protect yourself online is not a bad new year's resolution. As AppAdvice said: "When it comes to managing app access, MyPermissions makes that an easy goal to achieve."

How many apps have permission to access your information?

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