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Stanford Project Aims To Gauge Online Privacy

Ryan Calo, a residential fellow at the Center for Internet & Society, is quoted on the launch of WhatApp?, a website that reviews how well web applications protect users' privacy. Alejandro Martínez-Cabrera of the San Francisco Chronicle reports:

Who ever reads the user agreements?

As our lives have become more intertwined with the digital world, privacy advocates have become increasingly worried that we are often left with little other choice but to sign away any privacy concerns in the name of enjoying a fun or necessary service.

But a project at Stanford University is looking to change that with, a Web forum where users can review and compare the privacy, security and openness of Internet and mobile applications.

The Web site grades applications on a five-point scale based on reviewers' answers to questions like: Can an application offer the same things without requesting so much information about the user? Or can users see and contribute to the source code?


"Consumers don't have a place where they can search for an app or compare them in the basis of values like security, privacy and openness. The idea is to kick the tires on these things and find out if some of these have security vulnerabilities," said Ryan Calo, a Stanford Law fellow and WhatApp's co-creator.


Calo views the project as a way to stimulate discussion about privacy and security. Bringing these values to the forefront will help encourage application developers to think more about them, he said.