By Aaron Earls
When loved ones die, many people long to hear from them again. Now, a new Facebook app is purporting to send you messages from heaven.
But not only are there theological problems with the app, there could be some technological issues to consider as well.
While you get an encouraging message supposedly from your deceased relative, you may also be giving away personal information to the company behind the app and other third-party companies.
Data you have on Facebook, such as your birthdate, phone number, and address, can be accessed and used by the app company and also provided to third parties.
When users sign up to play games or take quizzes on Facebook, they are giving away “whatever information is listed in the terms of service or on the sign-up page of the app,” says Chris Martin of Lifeway Social.
If you read the terms of service for the messages from heaven, they say users agree to provide data and information about themselves “free of charge and unlimited in terms of location, time, and type of users.”
The company also says it has the right to transfer the rights to your data to third parties.
It also admits under its terms of service that all of its content is for “entertainment purposes only.” If it wasn’t obvious enough, there’s no such thing as text messages from heaven.
But this app is just one of many popular quizzes, games, and apps on social media that collect data about the user.
Personal data and online privacy have become widely discussed.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently appeared before Congress about privacy breaches, including one involving Cambridge Analytica.
The third-party data firm was able to capture personal data for as many as 87 million Facebook users without their permission.
In 2015, Facebook made changes to how third parties could gain access to your data. Previously, if you played a game or took a quiz on Facebook, the app maker could pull data not only from you but also from all your friends.
Those changes limited what information could be shared with third parties, specifically related to the data of friends.
But these app makers have a significant amount of data about Facebook users, sometimes without even trying.
What might they do with it? “It’s hard to say,” says Martin. “In the case of Cambridge Analytica, it was sold (against Facebook’s rules). Generally, they probably just keep it on file and maybe even advertise to you through it.”
Using the data, app makers can target you on Facebook with ads that are based on pages you’ve liked and line up with your political and religious preferences.
If you’re concerned about what information you may be sharing on Facebook without even realizing it, Martin says you can “adjust your privacy settings as strict as you’re willing to make them.”
If you want fewer places to have access to your data, start by making your privacy settings strict. Then you may want to reconsider whether you really need to take a quiz to decide which movie star you most look like or on what TV show you belong.
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AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.