A while after President Barack Obama’s social media team announced its Facebook application, Republican challenger Mitt Romney came out with his own way of reaching out to those on the social network. But just like any other Facebook app, Romney’s and Obama’s open graph functions want your information. A study by Secure.me analyzed the Obama 2012 app and Romney’s Commit to Mitt app, finding out which side requests more Facebook data from its users.
Secure.me’s analysis took into account certain profile components that apps seek access to, such as profile photos, hometowns, locations, photos, events, birthdays, likes and status updates. Marina Ziegler, head of public relations at Secure.me, compared the privacy settings of three main apps: Obama 2012, Commit to Mitt, and Romney Social Victory Center.
How did they fare?
Obama 2012 (full Secure.me analysis)
- Asks for: Facebook ID, profile picture, locale, user location, user photos, name, gender, email, user birthday, user likes.
- Does not ask for: User hometown, user events, user videos, user groups, user status updates.
- Asks for: Facebook ID, profile picture, locale, user hometown, user events, user photos, user videos, name, gender, user likes, user groups, user status updates.
- Does not ask for: User location, email, user birthday.
Romney Social Victory Circle (full Secure.me analysis)
- Asks for: Facebook ID, profile picture, locale, user location, name, gender, email, user birthday, user likes.
- Does not ask for: User hometown, user events, user photos, user videos, user groups, user status updates.
Neither presidential candidates’ apps really scored well. The Obama 2012 app was hit with a poor reputation from Secure.me, while Commit to Mitt and Romney Social Victory Circle were each labeled with a very poor reputation. Ziegler wrote in a blog post that the Commit to Mitt app scores low because it asks for information from not only the user, but the user’s friends. This also hurt the Obama 2012 app, as it asks to access friends’ birthdays, location, likes, and photos.
The Commit to Mitt app looks at friends’ locations and history of political activity on Facebook to find out who the biggest influencers are. Ziegler wrote that users should think twice — or double-check their sharing privacy settings — before installing the Commit to Mitt app:
At secure.me, we have analyzed the app’s data collection activity and behavior and found out that the app requests the most sensitive permissions, including the permission to read all posts in your news feed, the permission to read your friends list, to post on your behalf, and to access your and your friends’ photos, videos, status updates, events, groups, and likes.
Yes, Romney’s app requests to access all of your and your friends’ activities, content, and interactions in the world’s biggest social network, which is a privacy intrusion to you, and even more so to your friends who didn’t choose to use the app. It doesn’t matter if you don’t use the app — you just need one of your friends to use it, and it will access your data, too.
To protect your data from being used by these apps installed by friends, there are a few steps Facebook users can take, Ziegler writes. Users should go to “privacy settings” in their profiles, then “edit settings” of ads, apps, and websites. From there, users can change the settings of “how people bring info to the apps they use” by making sure that all boxes are unchecked. According to Ziegler, this will make sure friends’ apps can’t collect any private information.
Readers: Have you connected to any of these apps?
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