Facebook App Privacy Risk Assessed by New PrivacyChoice ToolBy: Drew Bowling - April 23, 2012
For anybody curious about what private information of yours is bleeding out through the apps you use and enjoy on Facebook, PrivacyChoice has updated their browser extension to include privacy feedback about those apps. The extension, Privacyscore, in case you don’t know, is an online service run by PrivacyChoice that allows anybody to get a security rating on a website in order to assess the risk that visiting the site poses to your online privacy (if you’re even concerned about such things). In addition to the extension update, PrivacyChoice is also offering a Privacyscore app on Facebook that will perform a similar function.
Recognizing that the number of people using apps is a bulging market, the combination of the two tools is an valuable option that allows people to be more proactive about finding out exactly how secure an app is before giving it the keys to their Facebook profile.
Unsurprisingly, the Privacyscore Facebook app doesn’t ask you for any personal information so users won’t have to submit the typical assortment of permission requirements that most apps ask of you. Simply go to the Privacyscore app and type in the name of the app you wish to check out.
In some cases, if you have the Privacyscore extension installed in your browser (it’s currently only available for Firefox and Chrome), when you arrive at the Request for Permission page before you install the app you can click on the Privacyscore icon in your browser and you’ll be able to see the score.
The score produced by the browser extension, as you see, is identical to the score produced by the Facebook app.
Unfortunately, the agreement between the two tools isn’t always reliable. In the example below, the risk information about Angry Birds wasn’t available via the browser extension but it was for the Facebook app. So for now, at least, until the extension gets updated, your best bet is to use the actual Facebook app instead of the extension in order to get the most up-to-date information. While I know the extension might be more convenient for many users since it’s always right there in front of you, don’t assume an app hasn’t been ranked yet just because it doesn’t appear to have a Privacyscore rating when you use the browser extension.
In Privacyscore’s official blog post announcing the new Facebook app, PrivacyChoice Founder and CEO Jim Brock explained the importance of Facebook users being vigilante about what apps they offer up their information to:
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.
Facebook doesn’t control or enforce app privacy practices, so it’s up to users to know the privacy risk of sharing personal data with apps. Now users can easily check the Privacyscore for an app before allowing access to their own personal data and their friends’ profiles.
As a whole, the average score (out 100) for Facebook apps was 78. I was a mediocre college student so I comfortably recognize that percentage as a barely-passing grade, which in terms of your personal security really is pretty shabby. “Facebook users deserve better than a C-plus when it comes to their privacy,” said Brock.
Zynga, makers of such hits as Farmville and Words With Friends, scored an average of 82. Electronic Arts and Playdom were the only two app developers to score in the nineties with 91 and 93, respectively.[Via paidContent.]