No need to be so ‘App’rehensive

Have you ever gone on a Facebook app and pondered… why do they even need this info? 

It seems security concerns plus distrust of Facebook, equals the perfect web privacy storm. After all, we need someone to blame. However in Facebook’s defence, privacy is at the heart of all they do at the moment. 

The big step forward they’ve made in recent years is perfecting what apps can ask for and how they use your data. Here is what they set out to achieve back in April:

Makes sense. Now it is all about putting it into practice with apps that developers produce. Here were the key security points to take out of the new system announcement:

 

  • Users can now customise and control the personal information they share with apps. Regardless of what the app asks for.
     
  • A clearer design to show where the app will be able share updates about your app usage.
     
  • New, Anonymous Login. This means users can login into Facebook apps, well… anonymously.

 

 

And these changes seem to be working, as there has been a 10% increase in Login conversions. So what does this mean.

At this year’s f8, on the back of the success of April’s announcement, Facebook rolled out a ‘Login Review’ for apps using the Facebook login API and proprietary features. A review, that in theory, will help developers create the perfect app for their users.

The login review is a system that works along side existing developer review processes for things such as the App Centre and Open Graph reviews. Adding a third sign off process required by Facebook before the app hits the general public.

And added barrier or an essential quality assurance?

Well, for the end user, it’s an essential quality assurance process. When creating a Facebook app or any app for that matter - the end user should always be the priority. When designing an app, I will always ask myself - ‘Would I use this?’. However, developers argued on its release, that it was going to be added barrier and detrimental to timings of their future projects but Facebook have it covered. They even have the stats to back it up.

 

They reviewed 25,000 apps in the six months between April and November; and on average finish their review of an app in under 1 day. Also apps that require 3 or less permissions on login will not need the review. Helping speed up the process even more. 

 

What is possible the most impressive thing in this whole approval process is that each app is still reviewed by an actual Facebook team member, rather than just going through an automated system.

 

This is a key point to highlight. Due to apps with under 3 permissions being able to by-pass the review process; apps have streamlined there request for data. On average, apps are requiring less permissions, just 2 (rather than the previous amount of 5) and are only taking what is needed - rather everything available. This is something that also gets tested. The review team will check that any permissions used, are done so in the right way, and also making sure the assets and general quality of the app meets Facebook’s standards.

This should help avoid any nasty surprises or posts going out in your name without your knowledge.

Product Manager Sean Leow commented on the change: 

“You just feel lighter going into the app. Anecdotally we see with many apps the actual install rate, if you’re seeing less things you need you’re gonna install that app more.”

So look out for more and more apps in the future asking you for less data, but giving more back. And even after all that, if you still don't trust where you info is going. Just don’t use the app. For information privacy in general just remember - if its not online, it can never land in the wrong hands.

Do you think Facebook is doing enough to protect it’s users?