The Norman Transcript


January 27, 2013

Stop! Don’t download that stupid app!

NORMAN — A recent discussion on Facebook reminded me of two words: caveat emptor, a Latin phrase often translated as, “Let the buyer beware.” In this case, I would have changed the phrase to “Let the downloader beware.”

The discussion centered on a notice that is popping up on many Facebook users’ pages that says “I want to add your birthday.” The notice masquerades as a request from a Facebook friend to click a link and install an “app” that would add your birthday to their calendar, and vice versa.

However, this seemingly-innocent app does a lot more than remind you of birthdays; it also harvests “virtually all of your personal information, plus a list of all your friends, plus your chats and posts on any of its related pages and use(s) that information or sell(s) that information to a company or companies that may not have your best interests at heart,” (quote from

There lies the problem with a great many apps for Facebook, as well as desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet computers, especially those that are allegedly “free.” Not only do they provide you with a cute game or handy doodad, they spy on you and everyone else they touch, gathering as much information as possible, to be sold, re-sold and then sold again by the millions to Internet-based marketing firms. That “free” app is making money for somebody and you are paying the price.

Have you ever wondered why you get so much spam email? It all depends on who you give your email address to, and how it is circulated around the Internet. There’s money to be made in acquiring and selling personal information, such as email addresses. Mindlessly downloading and installing every free app that comes along is a sure-fire way to get on every marketer’s list.

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