Advertisement

Facebook's 'Most Used Words' app collected a ton of your data. But not more than anything else on Facebook

Facebook's 'Most Used Words' app collected a ton of your data. But not more than anything else on Facebook
Third-party apps on Facebook ask for a lot of user data in exchange for a quiz result. (David Butow / For The Times)
What are your most-used words on Facebook?
That's a question you've probably seen cropping up a lot lately in your newsfeed. Thanks to the "My Most Used Words on FB" app, you can click a couple of buttons and see a word cloud of everything you've ever said in a status update. More than 17 million people have already tried it out. It's fun, probably enlightening ("Wow, do I really talk about my dog and brunch that much?") and, occasionally, hilarious.
However -- and you knew there was a "however" coming, right? -- the app required you to disclose a large amount of your personal data in exchange for making a word cloud.
That said, so does just about every app on Facebook.

The Britain blog Comparitech called "Most Used Words" a "privacy nightmare." In addition to giving the app permission to read and analyze all of your Facebook status updates, users gave it permission to access their full name, age, date of birth, profile photo, hometown, current city, their entire friends list, everything they've ever "Liked," all of their photos and photos they are tagged in, IP address and information about the device they were using when they clicked "accept."

The app, made by a Korean company called Vonvon, does not need all of that information to make a word cloud. Vonvon is in the business of making Facebook quizzes. It has more than 500 in English. On its site, you can allegedly learn which Disney couple is most like you and your friends, which Pixar character captures you perfectly and which of your Facebook friends is secretly your crush.
David Hahn, president of North American operations for Vonvon, spoke to The Times about the company's privacy policy.
"In many cases, these privacy policies are recycled from benchmarking your competitors and major players in the industry," Hahn said. He said none of the information that Vonvon collects from users is meaningful in terms of what third-party data collectors are interested in.
That probably depends on your definition of "meaningful."
"My name, my birthday, my entire friends list, that's all very meaningful to me," said Claire Gartland, who serves as consumer protection counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
But as far as third-party Facebook apps are concerned, Vonvon's policies aren't any worse than most when it comes to collecting your data.
"It happens all the time," Gartland said. "There are countless apps just like this that collect just as much information."
And Hahn says Vonvon has no plans to sell user data to any third parties. The company wants to create a destination site for Internet entertainment and possibly branch into sponsored content. It collected lots of Facebook data so that users could easily take other quizzes or play games offered by Vonvon's site without having to click through any additional screens, he explained. Because of the increased scrutiny, the company has updated its privacy policy and now collects only the pertinent data needed to take each specific quiz.
Now if you want to see your "Most Used Words," you only need to give access to your public profile, your friends list and your timeline posts. It's still personal data that you are giving to a third party, but it's not ALL of your personal data.

If you've already given Vonvon your information and are regretting it, there's no way to take it back. PCMag has some good tips for how to adjust your privacy settings on Facebook. Basically, think long and hard about what you're sharing before you allow any third-party app to access any of your personal information, and whether it's worth sharing all of that for a quiz result or Facebook status.

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter @jessica_roy.

Advertisement
Advertisement