Advertisement

Is Vonvon accessing your private Facebook data?

This file photo shows a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. AP Photo/Ben Margot

UPDATE: In a statement to Global News, president of Vonvon’s North American operations David Hahn said the company does not store any private user information, including user’s email addresses, contact lists, or Timeline data.

Hahn maintained that the company does not sell user data to third party companies, stating that because they don’t store user data they “do not have anything to offer a third party.”

——

You may have noticed a number of your Facebook friends sharing pictures of a word cloud made up of their most used words.

With over 17 million shares, it’s the latest Facebook quiz to go viral – but privacy experts are crying foul on the company behind the quiz, accusing it of taking big amounts of user data.

Earlier this week, UK-based privacy and VPN (virtual private network) comparison website Comparitech published an article looking at the privacy policy behind the “What are you most used words on Facebook?” quiz, created by a company called Vonvon.me.

Story continues below advertisement

The article deemed the quiz “a privacy nightmare,” outlining sections of the company’s privacy policy.

At first glance, the company does appear to access a big chunk of your private Facebook data.

Privacy concerns

“With respect to users who voluntarily register to our services (by logging in to their Facebook account), Vonvon may collect personally-identifying information that is unique to such users (such as their name, profile picture, gender, birthday, internet protocol (IP) address and Facebook friend list,” reads the privacy policy.

Some of the other clauses within Vonvon’s privacy policy have also raised concern. For example, the section that states, “You acknowledge and agree that we may continue to use any non-personally-identifying information in accordance with this Privacy Policy (e.g., for the purpose of analysis, statistics and the like) also after the termination of your membership to this website and\or use of our services, for any reason whatsoever.”

In other words, by clicking “Log in with Facebook” you are acknowledging that some of your information could be used even after you delete your account.

On Wednesday, in response to growing concerns about its privacy policy, Vonvon issued a statement clarifying what user information it accesses and stores.

“Don’t worry. We use the information received from Facebook to generate your quiz/game results, and we never store it for other purposes.

Story continues below advertisement

For example, in the case of the popular Word Cloud, the results image is generated in the user’s Web browser, and the information gathered from the user’s timeline to create personalized results are not even sent to our servers,” read the statement posted to the company’s website.

The company said it also “significantly reduced” the amount of content its apps access when participating in its quizzes.

In a statement to Engadget, Vonvon CEO Jonghwa Kim also stated that the company does not sell user information to third-party companies.

However, a clause in its privacy policy reads, “We do not share your Personal Information with third parties unless we have received your permission to do so, or given you notice thereof (such as by telling you about it in this Privacy Policy).”

When asked to clarify this clause, president of Vonvon’s North American operations David Hahn said, “We never had the objective to share user information to third parties, we limit our privacy policy to sharing user information only for Compliance with Laws or only when it is Non-Personal Aggregate Information.”

“Along with going into minimal intrusive privacy practice, we’re looking into revamping our privacy policy and terms of service to make our users feel safe about using our services,” he added.

So what’s the controversy about these Facebook quizzes?

It’s important to note that these apps are not run by Facebook – they are third party apps that include their own privacy policies. By selecting “Log in with Facebook” when using these apps, you are authorizing the company to use your Facebook data.

Story continues below advertisement

If you have ever participated in one of these quizzes – or used your Facebook account to log into any other third-party app, like Airbnb for example – you would have noticed a pop-up telling you what information that app will access.

In some instances, Facebook lets you edit the information you provide to these apps.

Is Vonvon accessing your private Facebook data? - image

Some users may not realize that these apps have their own privacy policies that contain a lot of fine print about what they are allowed to do with your information.

Let’s be honest – how many of us have ever read a portion of a website’s privacy policy, let alone the entire legal document in full?

In a 2014 study, Pew Research found half of American Internet users didn’t understand what a privacy policy was. Fifty-two per cent of respondents said they believed a privacy policy ensured that a company was keeping their personal data private and secure. But a privacy policy is simply a legal document that discloses how user data is managed and used.

Story continues below advertisement

So what are some key things you should look for in a privacy policy?

  • What type of information the site collects: Other than what is needed to create an account on the website or app, what other personal information does it collect? For apps, consider how that information relates to the app’s function. For example, a kid’s car racing game shouldn’t need to collect location data from a smartphone.
  • How the information is used: Many social networks will specify if they use personal information to create personalized content like ads. For example, Facebook’s policy reads, “You give us permission to use your name, profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us.”
  • How long your data is stored for: What happens to your data if you delete your account? For example, according to Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, if your photos or videos were shared by others, they will remain on Facebook after you deactivate your account.

Sponsored content