The Most Used Words Facebook app has been causing controversy about the privacy risks it may involve. The app, developed by the South Korean company Vonvon, asks for more than users’ public information to create the image of a cloud with the words the person used more frequently during the year.

The reason why the app is being criticized, though, is because it asks for access to personal information beyond what that kind of quizzes usually requires. For example, Most Used Words asks for data such as identity information (age, sex, birthday, profile picture), entire friend list, all timeline posts and photos the user has been tagged in, likes, academic institutions the users attend, hometown, current location and even IP Address.

The app collects each of its users’ names, profile picture, everything posted to the timeline, photos, hometown, entire friend list, IP address, education history, and even information about the device used to access Facebook. Credit:

If it were to end up in the wrong hands, such information would be enough for a hacker to bypass security questions or make the job easy for anyone wanting to use a user’s personal information for criminal purposes.

Jonghwa Kim, Vonvon’s founder and CEO, responded to criticism in an interview with Venturebeat.

“We only use your information to generate your results, and we never store it for other purposes. For example, in the case of the Word Cloud, the results image is generated in the user’s Web browser, and the information gathered from the user’s timeline to create personalized results are not even sent to our servers,” the CEO said.

He also added that in the case of other quizzes from the company such as “What do people talk behind my back?” the app asks for the user’s hometown and school so it may show close friends in the results, but the information isn’t stored into their databases.

The same was explained by the company’s president, David Hahn, who said in an interview with Time Magazine that when a Facebook user interacts with Vonvon’s content, their personal data remains in the social network’s servers, and that the only data the company receives is the user’s Facebook ID number, which are anonymous digits that allow the person to receive their quiz results.

Jeremy Gillula, staff technologist of the privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, corroborated as a third party that the company seemed to be telling the truth about their data handling, but warned that without looking deeply into every code there was no way users could be certain about it.

Vonvon’s privacy policy stipulates that the company may use your personal information (for statistics, the text claims) even after ending the membership with the site. It also doesn’t apply to third parties not employed by Vonvon to which the company may disclose the user’s personal information.

The CEO argued that all privacy policies looked “sketchy” when taken out of context.

Source: Huffington Post