Facebook has embraced a new era as a commercial CRM. They signaled this shift with a threefold strategy to improve the control users have over their data combined with a major rollout to utilize that data for their own financial gain. By restricting third party access to user data, Facebook increased the value of their own ad network. Let’s start with the increased privacy for end users.

Facebook users have noticed the new Privacy Checkup Wizard.

This helps users feel more comfortable with the sharing and information access within Facebook. It’s a nice utility that walks you through key security settings and allows you to adjust who can see your email address, default settings for your posts and sharing permissions you’ve granted your applications. People welcome this simplicity for an area that many found opaque in the past.

In addition to helping individuals better manage their privacy, Facebook launched their new api. All third party applications will migrate to the new 2.0 api version by the end of April. This directly relates to user privacy because the new api puts a layer of privacy between the application and the social network. An application specific Facebook ID, rather than your actual Facebook ID, creates privacy for Facebook users. In addition, applications must request permissions, think of that as visibility into your account, at a more granular level. With the move to the 2.0 api, applications won’t have as ready access to your public information.

The third piece Facebook has coming to better secure user data involves a more formal application store, modeled on the iTunes or Amazon mobile application stores. Facebook put an application approval process in place to review how applications use some of the more intrusive permissions. Now Facebook application developers must submit their application for review and explain the need for each Facebook permission requested from a user and tie it to application functionality. This new step, combined with the move to the 2.0 api, helps protect users from “trojan horse” applications. A trojan horse application would follow the infamous model personified by Angry Birds on mobile devices. The application vendor provides you with an addictive game or valuable utility but in exchange it harvests valuable marketing data based on your overall behavior, including information completely unrelated to your use of the application.

The changes, above all, provide real benefits to Facebook users. You now have more protection against nefarious applications and easier control over what you share with the public. However, don’t start to celebrate the beneficence of Facebook without reading the rest of this blog post. We all know the theory of scarcity and how it applies to economics. Facebook’s actions to make your personal information less accessible to others increase the value of their own ad networks. Prior to these changes, Facebook leaked value by allowing other applications to nibble at the edges of the massive personal information store they control. The recent changes close up many of those leaks, so Facebook becomes the single source for that data.

Well, Facebook did announce the relaunch of the Atlas advertising platform during the rollout of all the changes mentioned in this article. Atlas takes user Facebook data outside Facebook, making it accessible for advertisement placement and management outside the Facebook environment. In addition, and more importantly, it tracks Facebook users across devices, using the pervasiveness of Facebook social sign on to follow users across desktop and mobile environments as well as across online properties using Facebook for user authentication. Not only can they track you from your desktop to your phone, but they can follow you across sites that use Facebook sign on. So, while users can thank Facebook for helping protect them against ill-intentioned applications, retain some skepticism regarding their altruism.