Fear of Facebook: 7 free apps that guard your privacy

If you're a Facebook user and want to make sure your personal data is secure, these apps can help.

Are you worried about Facebook being a privacy invader? Join the club.

The information Facebook gathers about its users -- not to mention the information people make available about themselves -- can make their lives an open book, offering details about their families, their interests, their habits, their likes and dislikes and personal photos. People are also worried about the possibility that Facebook can track their travels on the Web or that their information can be shared with advertisers for ad-targeting purposes.

Making matters worse is Facebook's constantly changing privacy policies and settings. In December 2012, Facebook changed its policies and settings yet again, causing not a little backlash from users. As a result, even if you had previously customized the settings the way you liked them, you had to go back in and edit them again. And trying to understand Facebook's privacy settings and fine-tuning them can be a difficult task.

Luckily, there are a number of free apps out there that can help you check the state of your Facebook privacy and make changes to them. In some instances, the app will simply inform you about the status of your Facebook privacy so you can make changes on your own; others can guide you through making those changes.

No matter how you use them, though, if you're worried about your privacy on Facebook, you'll want to check them out.

A couple of cautionary notes: First, since many of the apps listed here are only available on Facebook, you will need to be signed in to the service to access them.

And keep in mind that whenever you give access to your Facebook data to a third party, you need to read the privacy information it provides and gauge whether you feel it is a reputable company.

Facebook Disconnect

Once you're logged into Facebook, it knows which other websites you're browsing. How? Via the Facebook Connect service.

Facebook Connect sends information about the sites you visit back to Facebook. That's why, at many websites, you'll see comments that friends of yours have made there, or see their activity -- you have Facebook Connect to thank for that.

If this tracking bothers you, there's a way to turn it off -- get the free Facebook Disconnect add-on for Chrome, Firefox or Safari. After you install it, Disconnect blocks Facebook Connect from tracking you, but you'll still be able to use Facebook. And when you visit Web pages, you won't see traces of your friends, or the ubiquitous Facebook Like button sprinkled seemingly all over the Web.

Facebook Disconnect
Once installed, Facebook Disconnect invisibly blocks Facebook Connect from tracking you.

Since Facebook isn't the only service that follows you as you browse, Disconnect also has apps for Google and Twitter; or you can download its one-app-fits-all general app.

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