Popular App Called 'Privacy Nightmare' for Facebook Users

The most-used-words app might be looking at more than words
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2015 5:40 PM CST

(Newser) – In just a few days, more than 16 million people used a new app that creates a word cloud out of their most-used words on Facebook. They really shouldn't have done that, KFOR reports. An article published Sunday on Comparitech calls the app—from Korean startup Vonvon—a "privacy nightmare" and claims users of the app "agreed to give up almost every private detail about themselves to a company they likely know nothing about." According to Comparitech, the app requests access to users' names, photos, age, birthday, friend list, posts, hometown, IP address, and lots more. And Comparitech claims the app's privacy policy leaves Vonvon wiggle room to store users' personal information on servers in countries where privacy laws don't apply, keep the data even after users stop using the app, and sell their information to other companies.

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The maker of the app—which got favorable publicity everywhere from Cosmopolitan to the Independent—calls the Comparitech article a "false accusation." "It seems like you've taken words out of context for the sake of your accusation," CEO Jonghwa Kim writes in a response published on Comparitech. Kim says Vonvon doesn't store any user information after a user makes a word cloud, so it wouldn't have anything to sell other companies anyway. He also claims Vonvon made changes Monday to reduce the scope of the information to which it requests access. According to Comparitech, the problem is bigger than the most-used-words app. "We’ve singled out Vonvon because it recently went viral, but it’s far from the only shady data dealer to masquerade behind a viral quiz mill." (A Harvard student lost his Facebook internship after finding a privacy flaw.)

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