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Facebook Game Gathering Data Of Millions Of Users

Monday, August 15th, 2016

A viral app which has been shared over 16 million times on Facebook is collecting and possibly selling personal data of users. The app in question, “Most Used Words” (released by the Korean company Vonvon.me); is designed to be a fun game but in reality it seems like yet another Facebook app crafted to harvest personal information. The unprecedented popularity of the app attracted the attention of media as well as security companies like Comparitech which decided to look at the app more closely and investigate what Vonvon was really doing with the information that it is collecting.

Like other Facebook apps, “Most Used Words” appears in the news feed section of a user’s timeline as an update from a friend. The app is designed to pull information from Facebook status updates and then generate a word cloud based on that information. Once the app has generated word cloud, it encourages users to post that information on their walls which helps it to get even more users. The USP of the app is that the word cloud generated by it is quite attractive which encourages even more users to use and share it.

In order to generate a word cloud with the app, users first need to click on the “Most Used Words” post which appears on their walls. In the next step, the app asks for permission to access their profiles as well as all the information posted by them. Once the user grants permission to the app, it gets access to private information such as Name, Sex, Date of Birth, Profile Picture, Location, List of friends, every status update that the user has ever posted or liked, every photo which the user has posted or is tagged in, Education history as well technical details like IP address, browser and device being used by the user. In short, users are offering their entire Facebook profile as well as history to the app on a platter. What’s worse, since the app collects list of friends as well as tagged information from pictures, it contains data of even those Facebook users who have never used it.

To make matters worse, Vonvon’s privacy policy does not inspire confidence. The information posted on the Vonvon’s website clearly states that the company has full rights to use information of those users who have stopped using its services. Not only that, the privacy policy even states that the company stores data in several countries including those which do not have strong privacy laws. And while the company says that it does not share private data of its users with other companies without their explicit permission, it is also clearly mentioned that it cannot be held accountable for the actions of third parties with whom it has shared data.

After several media outlets published details highlighting the privacy issues associated with the “Most Used Words” app, Vonvon issued a clarification stating that it does not sell personal information of its users for profit. However, since the app collects so much personal information in one go, users should proceed with caution and stay away from “Most Used Words” as well as other data harvesting apps.

August 15, 2016

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