Facebook Apps Skim Extra Private Data Of Users

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Today from the Privacy Desk: Facebook apps might be taking more information than users are aware of. Yes, regarding apps, this is not really a surprise, is it? The problem with today's news, according to the Wall Street Journal, is that Facebook requires app developers to acquire an agreement from users in order to access specific information, but that Facebook might not be policing the apps that are going beyond the terms of the original user agreement.

For instance, an app might request access to personal information from your account and ask for your permission to use it, but what's not stated is that some of that access might exceed beyond the user and also end up allowing the app to access the users' friends. Apps are requesting information from users ranging from religious and political affiliations to access to photos (again, uploaded by both the user and the users' friends).

While it's one thing to sign away your information, it's another to lasso a second unwitting party into that agreement for information collection. In the past, Facebook has agreed to make changes to consent forms in order to require apps to specify which categories of information it would be accessing, but the social networking site denied request to make apps seek permission from users' friends whenever their data was also sponged up by the app.

WSJ found that among the 100 most popular apps examined, the worst transgressor for data requests was "MyPad for iPad." Shortly behind that were a couple of quiz games, "Between You and Me" and "Truths About You," which ask for "dozens of personal details that don't appear to be used by the app in the questions it poses to users about their friends."

In spite of the fearful content of the WSJ report, Josh Constine over at TechCrunch says that it may all be a bunch of Facebook fear-mongering, writing that the WSJ piece "overstates the risks" that these apps pose to your privacy.

Essentially, you the user have to evaluate what your privacy is worth to you because, at this point, you have to assume that you're probably giving up more information than you're cognizant of. So before you add that app to your Facebook profile, it again comes down to the simple question: which do you value more, using the internet or protecting your privacy?

[Via WSJ.]