Larry 'N Atlana

Just forget about privacy? Not me.

Is the latest craze app sending your data to the Russians? More importantly, is it sending my data to the Russians?

I have quite a few Facebook friends, although I’m not like some people who collect them like baseball cards as if they’re in competition to see who can have the most friends. Most of mine are either family, old High School acquaintances, and a few people from work. Many of them are staunch believers in privacy. That is until it comes to Facebook.

Recently there has been quite a few allegation concerning the way FB handles privacy. It was reported in 2015 that Cambridge Analytical, a political consulting firm based in the UK was using the data of millions of people’s profiles and the profiles of their friends without their consent. But was it really without their consent? The data was gathered through a survey app which clearly stated that the user was giving CA the right to use the data in broad scope, including selling and licensing the data. Now there were some issues revolving around the way the data was handled after it was collected, but CA did nothing wrong in gathering the data.

Apps that we use on FB and on our phones are for the most part, free. That means that we’re not giving the company money for us to use them. So how does the companies that create these apps make money? Two ways. Either by delivering adds to us, or collecting data on us (which people freely give them permission to do), or both. Like the old saying goes, “If you’re not paying for it; you are the product”.

Now I have no problem with people freely giving their data to the Russians in order to use an app that makes you look older, or younger, or whatever like the latest rage “FaceApp”. This article from Science Alert (along with many others out there) explains FaceApp’s terms of service. The issue I have had in the past is when these apps, especially the FB ones, gather data on others who aren’t using the app, like friends of the user. Just look at your Facebook feed. It’s full of people posting “What type of animal are you?”, “What Disney character are you?”, “Who are you when you’re pissed off?” (see below for their terms of service), and on and on.

“This game will have access to your public profile” Who are they, and what are they going to do with that data? I searched for the company listed in the privacy terms. Wowquiz.com, which is the URL the privacy terms are posted on turns up a blank page, and the other company listed, “Moka Media Limited” was a UK based graphics company, since dissolved. So folks you’re giving up your data to someone and you have no idea who or what they’re doing with it.

If you’re OK with turning over your data to whomever, go ahead. But for the rest of you, please check your Facebook privacy settings. I hope like me you are only allowing friends access to your profile. That way, I hope, these mysterious third party data collectors are only harvesting the data of the poor suckers who are willingly giving it up and not everyone they’re friends with. Facebook said they turned off the ability of apps to see friend’s data, but there’s some concerns that they have still allowed it for some companies.

And while you’re at it, check out the apps that have access to your profile. (Settings/Apps and Websites) and look at the “active” section. I have two, Spotify and Goodreads, both because I want to be able to connect to some of my friends that use those services.

I’ll be willing to bet many of my friends have hundreds. These aren’t just apps that you use on FB, it’s also apps that you log into with FB. Why would someone do that it’s beyond me.

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