Facebook and other onlined social networks represent the biggest security threats to face web users this year. Here are four tips from two security and privacy advocates on improving the Facebook application development process to ensure the social networker becomes safer for users.

Scams such as 'Get the dislike button!' and 'OMG this girl KILLED herself after her dad posted on her wall!' are some of those frequently doing the rounds on Facebook in an attempt to get social networkers to click on and install a bad application.

Unfortunately, as is the typically the case with these scam applications, allowing the application to access your profile will only lead you to a fraudulent survey which earns a commission for the spammer. Not only will you be left still wanting to know who is visiting your profile, you've also just shared your information with the shady character that developed the fake application. Does that make you uncomfortable? It should, say security professionals.

The process of developing applications on Facebook still needs a lot of improvement, according to security and privacy advocates. In fact, earlier this month, Facebook decided to temporarily disable a controversial feature that allowed application developers and third-party web sites to access the mobile phone numbers and addresses of certain users. The feature had sparked criticism among privacy and security advocates who cautioned the ability to gather such personal details from users opened up more doors for potential abuse, such SMS spamming, or possibly even identity theft.

In a recent report, security firm Sophos noted Facebook has a major problem in the form of its app system.

"Any user can create an application, with a wide range of powers to interact with data stored on user pages and cross-site messaging systems, and these applications, like survey scams, can then be installed and run on any users' page."

In its statement, however, Facebook responded to the Sophos report, stating: "We have built extensive controls into the product, so that now when you add an application it only gets access to very limited data and the user must approve each additional type of data".

"We make sure that we act swiftly to remove/sanction potentially bad applications before they gain access to data, and involve law enforcement and file civil actions if there is a problem."

Is that enough? Many security experts say no. Here are four tips from two security and privacy advocates on improving the Facebook application development process to make it safer for users.

NEXT PAGE: Wall garden approach

  1. Improving the app development process
  2. Walled garden approach