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The most tasteless app on Facebook might also be one of the most dangerous

facebook-sexBy Simon Davies
An app is starting to spread on Facebook that has all the outward signs of being a privacy advocate’s worst nightmare. It also happens to be just about the most tasteless idea ever to emerge in social networking, and is thus almost certain to be a huge success. It currently claims around 250,000 subscribers secured in little more than a week.

You even get the chance to bang your family members, since all your friends appear on the shagging targeting page

Called “Bang with Friends” the creepy app acts as an automated matchmaking service by correlating subscribers’ lists of friends to identify who secretly wants to screw whom. To activate the hormone trail you click the “down to bang” button below the relevant profile pic on your friends list and then encourage the unsuspecting friend to sign up to the app in the hope that he or she will do likewise against your profile. You even get the chance to bang your family members, since all your friends appear on the shagging targeting page.

Once a match has been made, both parties receive an excited message with the subject header “It’s bangin’ time!” that tastefully reads “You’ve got a bangin’ match!  Your friend XXXX wants to bump uglies with you!”

This app is a gateway to discovering the sexual orientation of thousands of people, many of whom would not have disclosed their sexuality on Facebook.

Other than registering ten on the sleaze index this idea has vast potential to be a privacy quagmire, particularly if the service moves toward gender orientation. If ever there was an idea that would test the limits of privacy, this is it. For this reason alone it’s worth running a quick assessment of the app. In some ways Bang with Friends is a litmus test for whether any sort of privacy protection could work in the sensitive end of the apps market.

In some ways Bang with Friends is a litmus test for whether any sort of privacy protection could work in the sensitive end of the apps market.

First, it must be said that the app “sort of” passes the first test of default disclosure. Upon registration you can set the disclosure of the “fact” of your subscription across a range of options from totally public to self only. For most users it defaults as self only, meaning that no-one but the subscriber gets to see that the app is being used or can read the wall posts on it. However the default for some subscribers is “custom” but the app fails to explain what this means. If “custom” means the user’s existing Facebook settings then there are real questions about safety.

This is in reality a secrecy setting rather than something that would protect the privacy of your friends. However there seems to be no disclosure of your potential bangs unless there is reciprocation from the other party. Even then, only the lucky bangers get to hear about it.

The privacy policy for the app says that no third party will receive the data, nor will the data be sold off.

What security provisions have been put in place? The policy is mute on that subject.

So far so good. However there are significant accountability issues that need airing. Who is in control of this sensitive information? This app after all is a gateway to discovering the sexual orientation of thousands of people, many of whom would not have disclosed their sexuality on Facebook. What security provisions have been put in place? The policy is mute on that subject. As Facebook creeps further toward a “real” identity policy such question will be increasingly relevant. The developers are also building into the mobile spectrum, so security becomes an even more paramount issue.

Bang with Friends was developed by three anonymous college students who have gone to great lengths to make sure no-one gets to bang them. Or indeed, screw them if the system suffers a breach.

The transparency and accountability issues are critically important. Platforms that support such apps need to think carefully about how privacy and security are addressed in systems that contain such vast amounts of sensitive data.