Scoring Facebook apps on privacy

On Facebook, apps are everywhere. Some days I hear more about fictitious crop updates than real updates. Previously, I talked about concerns with Facebook frictionless apps but what about all those other Facebook apps?

These apps may not be automatically sharing your activity but they are sharing data. A Wall Street Journal examination of 100 of the most popular Facebook apps found that most collected full names, profile picture, email address and list of friends, among other details. A few apps even collected friends’ birthdays and current locations.

To find out what my apps were sharing, I checked out my Facebook permission page under App Settings. My apps required I share at least my basic information. Turns out, basic information was a lot of information.

What do apps do with all this information? It is hard to tell. These apps are not covered by Facebook’s privacy policy. Facebook does require apps to have their own policy, but   reading a privacy policy is no easy task. Privacy policies are on average a 2,500 word document full of legalese.

Now, instead of reading a long privacy policy, there is an app for that. Privacyscore by PrivacyChoice scores Facebook apps based on their privacy practices. Privacy Choice uses icons to show how an app protects and shares data.

Based on an apps privacy policy and how many companies it shares data with, an app receives a score between 0 – 100.  A score above 90 is excellent and in the green zone, between 80-90 is a yellow and under 80 is red. Facebook users can know instantly which apps protect their privacy and which don’t.

Besides the ease of use, I love that parents can check out an app ahead of time. When a kid is in the middle of downloading an app and suddenly the permission page pops up, this is not the best time to talk privacy. Kids wanting a game will usually agree to anything. With Privacyscore, parents and kids can review an app’s privacy rating before downloading the app.

Other organizations, such as Momswithapps and Common Terms, are also developing privacy icons. Hopefully these icons will catch on and spread across other platforms. For now, be sure to check out how well your favorite Facebook app scores on privacy.