Fighting back against toxic Facebook and iPhone apps
A new wiki called WhatApp? lets you post reviews of privacy killing, vulnerability riddled apps. It's an idea whose time has come.
The brains at Stanford Law School have come up a with a wiki that lets you speak your mind about iPhone, Facebook, and other apps -- and warn the world when one of them goes rogue.
WhatApp? gives you the skinny on Web apps like Adobe Flash or Google Docs; browsers like Firefox or Chrome; mobile platforms like Android or the iPhone/iPad; and social network apps for Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and others.
Lord knows there are enough stupid apps out there, and a seemingly infinite number to come. But WhatApp offers a special twist: They're not reviewing how cool or fun these apps are, they're reviewing how private, secure, and open they are -- qualities that most of the 3,452,798 app review sites out there usually just skip.
The WhatApp home page sports a Featured App and a Penalty Box; the featured app is one that's beneficial to your privacy, like BugMeNot, which offers user logins to popular sites so you don't have to hand over your personal information to access them.
The Penalty Box is currently occupied by RockYou Live, a slide-show widget for Facebook and MySpace whose servers got hacked last December, spilling names and email addresses of 32 million users. (RockYou was storing this information unencrypted; after the hack, RockYou apparently tried to keep it a secret for two weeks. The company is now the lucky recipient of a class action lawsuit.)
You can also scan a list of all apps across every platform, rated in descending order of privacy protection, or search for a specific title.
Those features are open to anyone. But if you want to contribute to the site, you must first register as either a user, expert, or developer. Anyone can register, though it you want to qualify as an "expert" or "developer" you'll have to pass muster with the folks at Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society. As far as I can tell, the only difference with being an expert is that your reviews are stored on the separate "expert" tab. (Yes, I did apply for "expert" status. I figured, What the hell? Maybe they provide jackets.) Including feedback from app developers themselves is a nice touch; I'm curious to see how well that works.
To review an app you select it from the list, then fill out a 9-question form rating its privacy, security, and openness, ranging from 5 (very private, secure, and open) to 1 (a steaming pile of vulnerabilities and violations). Add your own personal review, if you like. Then post it. The reviews appear within a few minutes.
If the app you want to review isn't listed, you can add it. As I write this, the wiki lists some 200+ apps, but most of them have not been reviewed yet. So they need a lot of help. I've already started adding reviews to the site. Now it's your turn.
When not blogging on Easter Sunday, privacy "expert" Dan Tynan is making the world safe for snark at his geek humor gone wild site, eSarcasm.