MyPermissions Launches App Privacy Certification Program

By Cameron Scott 

MyPermissions, an Israeli Web and mobile app company, today launched a Trust Certification program that requires app developers flagged by its users for good privacy practices to sign a legally binding agreement not to share personally identifiable information about users with third parties.

The certification program builds on MyPermissions existing service apps, which launched in August 2012, which notify users in short, clear alerts of what information apps seek to access and offers a dashboard that displays which apps the user has allowed to access his or her social networking accounts.

Together, the products try to give users more confidence that their information is being respected, leading them to download and use more apps. Some apps see as many of half of their users abort the registration process as they confront privacy policies that are unclear or overly liberal.

“We want our users to enjoy the social web, and we want developers to stop having conversion drop-offs,” said CEO Olivier Amar.

The certification program, which competes with an offering from TrustE, is effectively crowd-sourced. Users of the MyPermissions app choose whether to accept, reject or report an app when they learn how it will handle their privacy, giving the company insight into which popular apps make privacy-conscious users queasy. The apps 100,000-plus users have manually approved or rejected 3.5 million app activities since using the privacy app.

MyPermissions has used that insight to create the initial list of privacy-certified apps. The list includes Twitter, Foursquare, Spotify, Pinterest, Ifttt, YouTube, Skype, Flipboard and Dropbox. The list includes Web services and mobile apps.

But telling users when an app accesses what information leaves one major question unanswered: What do they do with that information? The certification program’s legal agreement requires developers not to share personally identifiable information, often called PII, with third parties.

Pinterest’s privacy policy does not state that the company won’t share PII with third parties, for example. But its agreement with MyPermissions says it won’t do so. If Pinterest were to make PII available, it would lose its certification and MyPermissions users would receive an alert from the company telling  them of the changes.

MyPermissions will launch premium plans for both developers and consumers in coming months. It enjoys funding from the Israeli firm Lool Ventures and from the Silicon Valley incubator 500 Startups.