As anyone who’s every used Facebook apps knows, these little suckers can be a real gamble when it comes to privacy. Sure, they all include a list of permissions, and their very own privacy policies for your to peruse through. But what does it all mean? And who has time to read through that stuff, anyway?
A new tool from security research firm PrivacyChoice is now available to help you find out. Dubbed Privacyscore, the free app provides a simple breakdown of the privacy policies and tracking practices of other Facebook apps. It also scores each app on a scale of 1 to 100; the higher the number, the better privacy protections.
“Hundreds of millions of people use Facebook apps every day, sharing personal profile information widely across thousands of app providers,” said Jim Brock, PrivacyChoice Founder and CEO, in a statement on the company blog. “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.”
It may come as a surprise, but “Facebook doesn’t control or enforce app privacy practices,” said Brock, “so it’s up to users to know the privacy risk of sharing personal data with apps.” As privacy expert Jules Polonetsky, director of the Future of Privacy Forum, tells USA Today, Privacyscore “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.”
Perhaps — but Privacyscore is going to have to get a whole lot more robust before it can have any real cleansing effect on the Facebook app ecosystem. The tool currently has a mere 200 apps in its database. It’s a start, but not nearly enough to full protect users from the thousands of Facebook apps that may be endangering user privacy.
PrivacyChoice explains that about 140 different tracking entities regularly scrape information from Facebook apps to build data profiles about users, which can include a wide variety of other information, including Web browsing histories, and information from other social networks. Privacyscore deducts points from apps for sharing information with these trackers.
At the moment, social game-maker Playdom enjoys Privacyscore’s highest rating, with 93 out of 100 possible points. Electronic Arts (EA) comes in second, with a score of 91, while social gaming giant Zynga gets a “B” grade with its score of 82. The average score of all apps in the Privacyscore database is a 78 — not good enough for the folks at PrivacyChoice.
“Facebook users deserve better than a C-plus when it comes to their privacy,” said Brock.
Facebook users interested in Privacyscore can check out the app here.