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 bottom line, says PrivacyChoice CEO Jim Brock, is that you get a single easy-to-grok numerical score without having to wade through all that stuff I just mentioned.

So far, PrivacyScore has rated more than 200 popular Facebook apps and nearly 2000 sites. Using a combination of automated tools for parsing privacy policies as well as human reviewers, they hope to have more than 5,000 apps rated by year end.

Though the service is free to consumers, Brock hopes to make money by selling access to his API to Web publishers who want to publicize what good privacy citizens they are to the rest of the world.

"The biggest surprise has been how much a single number focuses attention and effort on the part of the companies that are rated,” he says. “We get calls from publishers all the time and their first question always is, ‘How do we improve our score?’ I’ll hear from the person who owns privacy at a particular publisher and they’ll say now they finally have the measurement they need to get their boss’s attention."

One notable flaw in the ointment is that the PrivacyScore is based almost entirely on the policies published by the apps and tracking companies. As we’ve seen more than few times, companies occasionally end up violating their own privacy policies – sometimes accidentally, and sometimes accidentally on purpose.

Brock says they’re still trying to work out how to include actual compliance with policies and things like data breaches into his rating system, as well as how to deal with Do Not Track opt outs that are really Do Not Target Me With Ads But Continue to Collect My Information opt outs.

Is PrivacyScore a cure for Facebook’s app afflictions? Not really. It’s more like an over-the-counter medicine; it relieves the more obvious symptoms without removing the underlying cause. Still, the relief is welcome. Maybe one day it will force the big app publishers to clean up their acts, and push some of the more evil developers out of the app game entirely.

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