How Secure Are Your Facebook Apps?

How well do Facebook apps protect your privacy? Before you download something new and agree to share information, check out how Privacyscore rates its first.

Facebook's apps and games have been a sore spot for cautious consumers for quite sometime: Privacy breaches and rogue apps muddied the water early on, but even as Facebook upped privacy requirements and cracked down on noncompliant apps, some users are still hesitant to join in.

A new tool that launched this week aims to quell your Facebook app fears—or at least arm you with information—about which apps protect your privacy and which ones don't.

Privacyscore, a company that estimates the privacy risk of using a website based on how it handles your personal and tracking data, released a Facebook app that rates other Facebook apps' privacy on a scale of 0 to 100. To find out how secure your apps are—or an app you're thinking of using—just visit their page and enter in the name of the app.

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Because each Facebook app has its own privacy policies, it's difficult for users to feel safe and understand how apps will use their information, says PrivacyChoice CEO Jim Brock. "Facebook doesn't control or enforce app privacy practices, so it's up to users to know the privacy risk of sharing personal data with apps," he says.

When you enter in an App into the search field, Privacyscore returns an overall score, as well as a list of data points that contributed to its score. Facebook app Words With Friends, for example, returned a score of 79 out of 100. (The average score for all Facebook apps reviewed was 78.) When you click for more details, you're sent to a Privacyscore page with more information.

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[Want more tips, tricks and details on Facebook privacy? Check out CIO.com's Facebook Bible.]

Among the information you get is the following:

The site's policies: This breakdown delves into whether personal data isn't shared for marketing purposes, deletion requests are honored, assurance of notice if data is requested and vendor confidentiality is confirmed.

Privacyscore assigns a number to each of these: Words With Friends, for example, receives points for not sharing personal data with marketing and honoring deletion requests. It does not, however, offer a notice if data is requested and received no points in that category.

Who tracks you there: The second column looks into companies that track you and your data. For example, if you download Words With Friends, more than 50 tracking companies will receive information about you.

Privacyscore goes one step further to rate each tracking company based on whether it confirms user anonymity, observes "sensitive boundaries," provide an opt-out choice, the number of months it retains your data, and whether the company provides industry oversight. Out of a possible 50 points, Words With Friends received 39.

How do some of the big Facebook app publishers rate? According to Privacyscore, Playdom and its Facebook apps received the top rating of 93 out of 100 Privacyscore points. Electronic Arts placed second at 91. Other app publishers "fell below the standard," according to Privacyscore: Gaming giant Zynga and its apps received 82 points while K-Factor Media received a score of 72.

"Facebook users deserve better than a C+ when it comes to their privacy," says Brock.

Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and enterprise collaboration for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at kburnham@cio.com

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