Each of the top 25 applications on Facebook have at least 5.5 million monthly active users and 12 of these apps are labeled as "Facebook Verified," a designation which essentially means they have been given the Facebook seal of approval when it comes to their trustworthiness. But how trustworthy are these apps, really?
Application Privacy: Old News Perhaps, But Still an Issue
Today, Facebook is busy defending itself against accusations that they're using user data for advertising purposes, but it seems that the real danger on Facebook may be the access to this same user data from unknown companies outside of the social network. This is not really a new issue - nearly a year and a half ago, Facebook application privacy issues were heavily discussed in the blogosphere for some time. It's interesting to look again at the status of this problem and see how little has changed since then.
In fact, today Facebook's Application Terms of Service warns you (shouts at you in UPPERCASE, no less) that:
"ALL PLATFORM APPLICATIONS ARE PROVIDED AS IS" and that "YOU UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT YOU DOWNLOAD, INSTALL AND/OR USE ANY PLATFORM APPLICATIONS AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION AND RISK."
Within your Privacy settings, you're also informed that:
"When you authorize an application, it will be able to access any information associated with your account that it requires to work. The application can access information like your personal info and photos as well as your friends' personal info (depending on their settings)."
In other words, you've been warned.
It appears there's absolutely no requirement for Facebook applications to provide links to their own privacy policies to application users. And there's certainly no requirement that these links are prominently displayed for easy access.
Although the majority of users would still probably never look at privacy policies even if changes were made, having them consistently and prominently displayed would at least put pressure on application developers to think more carefully about how they would access Facebook user data as this would now be disclosed. And that may be the best we could hope for when it comes to these applications.