Facebook under fire again, this time over apps and privacy

Researchers warn over Facebook privacy

Yes, Facebook is under fire over privacy issues once again.

This time round it’s boffins from Penn State university over in America who have created a stir.

According to a Daily Mail report, the researchers have warned that Facebook’s privacy rules aren’t made clear enough when a user installs a game or app to their account.

When signing up to an app, a surprising amount of data can be revealed to the third-party company who programmed it – and Facebook’s sign-up screen doesn’t really make it clear exactly how your default privacy settings will be overridden by the developer.

Only visiting the developer’s website and properly reviewing their terms and conditions will tell a user exactly what they’re agreeing to in terms of access to data. And of course, hardly anyone takes any notice or gives more than a cursory glance over the terms.

More fool them, you might argue, but the researchers at Penn State feel strongly enough about Facebook’s app practices that they’ve created a new sign-up interface to help lay out more clearly what data is being shared with the app developer.

More to the point, it allows the user to decide what sort of data they’re happy to share.

User data is valuable to third-party developers because it can be sold on, potentially indiscriminately. Also, if companies are storing the data, it can also potentially be hacked – and smaller company’s security isn’t likely to be what larger firm’s manage (and they still get breached).

Hence the scientist’s concern about all this information floating around – with the marked increase in hacking activity this year – and the fact that Facebook apps don’t make it clear enough exactly what you might be giving away to a third-party that your account privacy settings might not otherwise allow.

Facebook isn’t having any of it and denies that the app installation process is something that’s in need of review.

The social site called the claims misleading, and criticised the very small sample size which the scientists used in their research.


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