So let’s say that there’s this awesome new app that was just released – a Facebook game that promises to be something that you’ll most definitely enjoy. You want to play it, of course. But then it’s asking for permission to access your data, to post on your wall, among other things. Depending on how eager you are to play the game, you’re either going to agree to whatever conditions the app proposes or flat out deny it and never get to play the game. Now, be honest, in between wanting to use the app and clicking the ‘allow’ button, did you even consider clicking that little link directing you to the app’s Terms and Conditions?
Well, as it turns out, most people are allergic to that block of text called Terms and Conditions. Reading them, however, can be quite vital if you want to determine what an app does with the data that they get from you.
Researchers from Penn. State University claim that some app developers actually gain a profit by selling off whatever data they’re getting from the users. Some of the more nefarious ones may even sell the data to identity thieves.
Also, according to the researchers, your global privacy settings won’t matter as the permission you give to apps override them.
At this point, some readers may be thinking about what harm there would be in giving app developers their names, ages, and hometowns. After all, what’s a bit of data compared to the fun of playing a nice game? Well, Professor Heng Xu of PennState University says that some of this data could actually be used to guess social security numbers. In the hands of a skilled hacker, this information could be used against you.
As such, it’s vital for people to know exactly what data they are sharing with application developers. Professor Xu’s answer to this problem was their very own Facebook application, which acts as a warning system that highlights the information that apps want to access. After seeing this, users can better decide on whether they want to give permission or not.
However, Facebook was quick to deny the allegations made by Professor Xu, saying that 3rd party apps are not selling information because Facebook itself enforces very strict guidelines for app developers. Those who do not adhere to these guidelines are supposedly pursued by the social networking site in court.
At this time, we have been unable to locate the actual interface designed by the researchers. We will update the story in the future if it becomes available to the public.