April 23, 2012
Facebook Apps Scored For Privacy
Michael Harper for RedOrbit.com
Sure, Facebook is the most successful and most ubiquitous social media site in the world. It´s likely to be worth quite a pretty penny once it goes public, making Mark Zuckerberg and their private investors very rich. Not all that glitters is gold, however, and for all where Facebook excels, there are still some glaring holes in their product. Or service...whichever you decide to call it.
It´s no surprise that a site with so much personal data would struggle with some privacy concerns. These concerns multiplied as apps began to act as a gateway to the site, allowing users to sign up or sign in for the app via Facebook login credentials. Once there, these apps have access to all sorts of information, making many users understandably nervous.
Enter PrivacyScore, a web service which “estimates the privacy risk of using a website based on how they handle your personal and tracking data,” according to their website.
On Sunday, PrivacyScore introduced their own Facebook app, designed to measure the privacy score of other apps found within Facebook. PrivacyScore for Facebook works much like the website version, measuring how a user´s data is handled and who will be collecting it. The Facebook app is free to use and will track all Facebook apps, including games.
In a blog detailing the new app, Founder of CEO of PrivacyChoice (Maker of PrivacyScore) said, “Hundreds of millions of people use Facebook apps every day, sharing personal profile information widely across thousands of app providers.”
“Each app provider has its own privacy policies, which in many cases lack even minimal assurances. Our research also revealed that those apps bring in scores of third-party tracking companies, which in many cases also lack basic protections, choices and oversight.”
According to USA Today, who broke the story, leaders in the online advertising industry use tools like PrivacyScore to monitor their own practices in order to remain in line with the laws. These Privacy experts have welcomed this new development.
“This certainly is going to be a useful tool for consumers, but it may actually be even more useful in pushing application developers, who don´t like getting poor grades, to look more closely at their own privacy practices,” Jules Polonetsky, director of the Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington, DC, data security think tank, told USA Today's Byron Acohido.
Experts agree Facebook should be held responsible to app developers accountable for their user´s privacy and how they handle this information. According to Facebook, they actively monitor the apps within their network for such privacy violations. Spokesman for Facebook, David Swain, told USA Today “If we find an app has violated our policies “¦ we take action.”
It seems PrivacyScore disagrees, saying Facebook neither controls nor enforces these privacy practices. According to their blog, PrivacyScore for Facebook allows users to easily check the score of an app before they allow it to access their sensitive information.
With the release of this new Facebook app, some existing, popular apps have been rated poorly on a 0-100 scale.
Angry Birds, for instance, was rated a low 65, a score which PrivacyScore lists as “least protective.”
As for Facebook.com, PrivacyScore lists it at a high 94, saying personal data is generally not shared, deletion requests are honored, and vendor confidentiality is confirmed.
This is good news for those who anxiously await what is expected to be an enormous IPO for Facebook.