Fruit Ninja get a D for privacy, Instagram an A. PrivacyGrade tells you why.

Why do so many Android apps invade your privacy?

privacygrade

Which Android apps are the biggest privacy invaders, and which respect your privacy? PrivacyGrade gives grades to thousands of Android apps so you can be forewarned before downloading. You'll be surprised at which get the worse grades and which the best.

To get the lowdown on privacy grades for Android apps, visit PrivacyGrade.org. It's a service put together by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. The grades it gives differs quite a bit from what you might expect. That's because its privacy model is based on expectations of privacy rather than solely on what the apps do. Here's how the site explains it:

This privacy model measures the gap between people's expectations of an app's behavior and the app's actual behavior. For example, according to studies we have conducted, most people don't expect games like Fruit Ninja to use location data, but many of them actually do. This kind of surprise is represented in our privacy model as a penalty to an app's overall privacy grade. In contrast, most people do expect apps like Google Maps to use location data. This lack of surprise is represented in our privacy model as a small or no penalty.

Many games get low grades. Fruit Ninja and Despicable Me, for example, both gets Ds, and Angry Birds gets a C. Apps that you might otherwise expect to get low grade get high ones. So Facebook, Google Maps, and Google Search all get As.

The service lists what kind of potential privacy-invading permissions each app uses. It explains why those permissions appear to be requested. For Fruit Ninja it lists a host of permissions that you wouldn't expect a game to require, like reading phone status and identity, and using location services. In many cases, PrivacyGrade finds those permissions are used to deliver targeted advertising.

PrivacyGrade also lists third-party libraries each app uses. In the case of Fruit Ninja there are plenty of them, almost exclusively used for ad targeting.

PrivacyGrade isn't an Android app. Instead, you visit the Web site and browse or search for apps you are considering downloading or have already downloaded. It's well worth the visit if you care about your privacy.

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