When I come across a site that asks me to login with my Facebook or an app that needs access to my Google details on my Android phone, I just grant the permission and move on. It’s become so common for web properties to ask for these hook-ups to my personal accounts that I and many others like me have stopped even noticing which ones have access any more.
Now, it goes without saying that this isn’t safe, nor is it advisable. Think about it this way: if a bunch of people had the keys to your private locker, wouldn’t you want to know who they were, why they had the keys, and stop them if you feel like?
But most web apps don’t offer an easy way for you to see these permissions and edit their access. These pages are usually tucked away deep in the recesses of your settings. But MyPermissions.org provides a one-stop easy access for all your app allowances, and gives heightened control to Chrome users with the MyPermissions Cleaner. Let’s check it out.
So what does it do?
The homepage keeps things simple. A grid of icons representing popular web services will quickly take you to the concerned app’s permissions page, so even if you don’t want to use their app to clean up your permissions, you can still use it as a quick reference to help you clean up your app permissions. MyPermissions currently works with Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Instagram, Foursquare, Windows Live, AOL, Flickr and Familio. Click the icon and you are asked to sign in, after which you will be presented with the settings page of that service. Of course, each of the services has a different way to operate it, so you’ll have to figure that out on your own.
It’s worth your while to keep checking MyPermissions periodically to clean your app permissions. Of course, you might not always remember to go back to it, which is why the website offers a reminder service that will ping you with an email once in a while.
Keying in your email also prompts the site to guide you to its own MyPermissions Cleaner – an extension for Google Chrome. Install it to get the little icon in your extensions toolbar and click to start.
The MyPermissions Cleaner app (mypermissions.com) lets you access the settings of the aforementioned services from within a cool, standardized and user-friendly interface. By default, it asks you to sign in to your Facebook, but you can choose from any of the other services by clicking on their icon in the grid.
Once you have granted MyPermissions access to your account (oh the irony!), it will quickly scan your settings to arrive at a list of the third-party apps and what kind of permission each has. And based on this it will give you an indication of how safe you are with the MyPermissions Meter.
The apps are basically divided into two: trusted apps and non-trusted apps. Trusted apps can be those that are certified as part of the MyPermissions’ Safe Permissions Program, or apps you choose to add to your trusted apps list. More on this later…
The MyPermissions Meter gives you a quick glance of how safe your personal info is with green indicating secure and red indicating unsecure.
Along with this, you get an indicator giving you the number of apps that have access to your data based on six criteria:
1) Post In Your Name
2) Know your location
3) Access your inbox/contacts/Messages
4) Access your info 24/7
5) Access your info
6) Access Your Media & Files
Cleaning it up
Once all the apps that currently have access to your personal info show up, it’s time to get cleaning. Most web services make you delete each app individually; MyPermissions Cleaner has a handy button to Nuke All Intrusive Apps. However, I advise you first go through the list to make sure you want them all gone.
Each app is listed one below the other, with small icons for the above six criteria indicating what type of access it has. If it’s still unclear, hover over the icon and an information bubble will give you more details.
For example, my Facebook is linked to my Tweetdeck and I don’t want that permission to be removed. While this isn’t a trusted app under MyPermissions’ metric, I can still grant it a seal of approval myself.
The process is simple. Just hit the ‘Edit’ button and a pop-up will tell you what intrusive permissions the app has and give you three buttons:
‘Remove’ will take it out forever.
‘Add To Trusted’ will indicate you think the app is safe.
‘Report’ will let you tell MyPermissions that this app has violated your privacy somehow. MyPermissions will try to reach out to the developers and look into the report and if there is reason to believe there’s a potential privacy threat related to the app, the entire community is notified.
There is one big problem here though. If you mark an app as trusted, then there’s no way to change that. Hitting the ‘Edit’ button gives you an option to remove it, but it’s not going to show up as a potentially intrusive app the next time you scan your permissions.
Once you are done adding your trusted apps, you don’t need to individually delete the apps. Just click ‘Nuke All Intrusive Apps’ and MyPermissions will do it for you. MyPermissions Cleaner will also give you live alerts when apps try to gain your private info. It’s free if you recommend enough people, but you can also pay to use it.
I never really realized how many apps I had granted access to my Facebook and Google accounts, which is where most of my private information is stored. And over the years, I had linked up Flickr to so many services which I don’t even use any more. MyPermissions was an eye-opener, to say the least.
The default web app is quite helpful but serves more as an easy bookmark service to access your settings page than anything else, although the email reminders are going to be very handy to remember to check my privacy permissions more often. The MyPermissions Cleaner extension for Chrome is where the service really shines, making it very easy to learn about and organize app permissions. All together, the service makes a great safety precaution for anyone who has even a couple active web app accounts.
MyPermissions.org gives easy bookmarklets to the settings page of your web accounts to see which apps have permission to your personal info. MyPermissions Cleaner is an extension for Chrome that does the same, but in a more robust and user-friendly interface.8