Advocacy Group, Facebook and Other Companies Launch Privacy Info Site for App Developers

In another effort by Facebook and other technology companies to inform developers about privacy issues — and show the world they don’t need legislation in order to stop abuses on their platforms — they’re launching an informational site together with advocacy group called the Future of Privacy Forum.

Called the “Future of Privacy Forum: Application Privacy,” the site promises information on “emerging standards, best practices, privacy guidelines, platform and application store requirements, as well as relevant laws and regulatory guidance.” For now, though, parts of the site lack content or otherwise don’t feel fully baked.

For example, under the “Learn/Resources” tab, in a section called “Hot Data Issues and Important Alerts,” an area called “1) Transmission of User IDs in Mobile Devices” provides links to a Wall Street Journal series on mobile app data leakage. Oddly, the section features Facebook’s reaction, noting that the company at one point said that it has “zero tolerance for data brokers.” The thing is, the issue was about mobile platforms, which Facebook doesn’t offer. The site appears to have conflated the mobile app incident with an earlier Wall Street Journal article that looked into data issues being passed by canvas apps on Facebook.

The site only launched in the last week, so we’re not going to judge too harshly yet. The practical benefits it does currently provide include a wide variety of links to other materials developed by governments, privacy groups and platform companies, which should be especially useful for developers who are new to platform development, and all the associated privacy issues.

Meanwhile, as active developers already know, each platform already goes well out of its way to tell developers about what they can and can’t do with user data. Facebook in particular has built out a series of policies and guides over the years to explain to developers what they can and can’t do on the platform, and it has restricted or removed some developers’ access to the platform due to abuses. By this point, any serious Facebook developer should have a clear idea about what they can and can’t do.

The same goes for Apple, Google and other companies who provide platforms, who have also become embroiled in privacy issues — and who are also sponsors of this new site, and of the Future of Privacy Forum. When questioned about their efforts to educate developers about privacy issues, the companies now have this site to point to. But in terms of making a big impact on how developers behave, it’s not clear what difference the site is going to make.