Which Facebook apps are stealing your personal data (and how to stop them)

Wonder how much of your personal data Facebook apps like Cityville or Words With Friends are sucking down? PrivacyScore has the answer.

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The biggest privacy problem with Facebook isn’t Facebook itself, it’s Facebook’s apps. There are more than 500,000 games, puzzles, quizzes and other time wasters in the Facebook platform, many of which exist for the sole purpose of sucking data out of your account. Worse, these apps not only can access your information, they can also grab data from your friends’ profiles, depending on their privacy settings. Thank you, obnoxious Farmville fans.

Facebook establishes limits about what data apps can access and what they can do with it, but they don’t appear terribly motivated to enforce those rules. For example, in October 2010, ten popular Facebook apps were found to be slurping up user data in direct violation of Facebook’s own terms. In response, Facebook removed some of those apps on a Friday, then reinstated them on the following Monday.

Now you can take matters into your own hands and find out who the real data vampires are. PrivacyScore from PrivacyChoice is a Chrome plug in that rates how each app deals with your data on a scale from 0 to 100. It can also do the same for Web sites. You can view these scores on the Web, on Facebook or, if you’ve installed the Chrome extension, by clicking the PS icon in the browser bar when you install an app.

 

There are two parts to each score, worth 50 points apiece. The first half is based on the app’s or site’s privacy policy – whether it shares personally identifiable data, conceals your identity from service providers who handle that data, notifies you if Uncle Sam requests your data, and retains your data after you’ve terminated your account.

The second 50 points come from the trackers used by each app or site. That score factors in the privacy policies for each tracker, whether they belong to an oversight group like the Network Advertising Initiative or Ad Choices, and how frequently the company’s tracking cookies appear for a particular app or site. So if Evil Web Tracking Company A appears on 10 percent of the app’s pages and Slightly Less Evil Web Tracking Company B appears on 90 percent, Company B’s privacy score counts more.

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