All posts by Julian Ranger

About Julian Ranger

Please see http://www.jranger.com/

Facebook join SocialSafe by promoting data portability


Yesterday Facebook announced a new feature which allows users to download the data they have in Facebook to their computers – sound familiar? For too long Facebook has been a walled garden where you can put your data in, but couldn’t get it out without using a tool like SocialSafe, so we heartily welcome Facebook’s conversion to the data portability camp.

SocialSafe is all about data portability and reuse and this has been our core mission since our launch in June 2009. We believe that if you create content or enhance your content using a service, program or tool that you should be able to reuse it elsewhere. For example, many of us have spent time tagging friends in photographs – wouldn’t it be nice to be able to use this information elsewhere and not just be restricted to using Facebook forever to see this information (and of course Facebook data is easily lost as friends move on, change accounts, etc). At SocialSafe we capture this information and allow you to see and reuse it.

As we develop SocialSafe the reuse aspect of your social data will increase dramatically. In just a few days we will release SocialSafe v2 which gives you a full digital diary view of all your Facebook data – want to know what you did this time last year? – easy just jump to that date in the calendar. No spending 20 minutes going next page, and the next page ad infinitum to access that data. This is what data reuse is about – because you have your data on your PC/Mac with SocialSafe we can add extra services and integration that are not part of the core Facebook mission. Another example with V2 is a search capability that looks across all of your Facebook data and an export capability to save your photos to any location.

As we proceed on from V2 we will be adding Twitter and other social networks to the stream you can download, view and reuse within SocialSafe – allowing you to get your hands around all of your social interactions in one place, enabling you to have the full picture and providing open data portability.

Not everyone needs all of SocialSafe’s current and future features, just as not everyone finds Facebook the answer to their social networking needs. A variety of solutions is always better than just one and therefore to have Facebook providing a basic download feature so everyone has access to their Facebook data is a significant step forward to achieving greater data portability across all services.

Facebook ‘Places’ More Privacy Concerns On Us

Facebook Places ConcernsWell Facebook Places is here and you can now check-in to places (only for US customers at present) with the Facebook App, so friends and others can see where you are.  Useful? – probably.  A privacy concern? – most definitely.

The use of geo-location apps has been growing with the likes of Foursquare and Gowalla taking the lead.  Having used Foursquare at SXSW in Texas earlier this year I recognise that there a use for a general public check-in in order to identify the ‘happening’ places. However, for me this very public announcement of where I was had marginal value. In addition, I feel that there are significant obvious drawbacks that I believe outweigh the advantages.

I do understand that using Facebook in order to check-in to places so my friends (and for me, only my friends) can see where I am, might be useful to help link up.  An immediate problem though is that my Facebook friends include very close friends, close-ish friends and others from sports clubs and the like that I know, am friendly with, but are not that close with.  As we know, the issue with Facebook is that I can’t restrict who knows where I am.

So onto privacy: why am I concerned?  The Facebook blog makes it clear that my Facebook friends can check me in somewhere without me doing it.  OK so what’s the problem – I can set a privacy control to stop this being broadcast after all.  Yes, but why is the default set so that others can do it. Surely the responsible, ethical default setting should be that only I can control my check-ins? Anything else is a breach of my privacy and right to controlling that privacy.

Three further things worry me.  Firstly, Facebook seem to have invented quite a few new privacy settings to control various features of the new Places function.  These are not all in one place, not set to protective defaults and are not eminently clear as to what they do.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if Facebook can make their overall user experience so good and so easy, then they should be able to do the same for their privacy settings.  The very fact that they don’t can only be a deliberate policy to fool people into being more open than they would otherwise opt-in to be.

Secondly, this quote from the Facebook blog is priceless: “If you don’t want to share your check-ins with your friends’ applications, just uncheck the new box in your Privacy Settings under ‘Applications and Websites’”.  So if I do nothing and my friend uses a dodgy application that abuses their check-in data, mine can be abused too – without me having any idea whatsoever what application my friend is using or what that app is doing with the data!!  This is horrendous.  Facebook should definitely set the default for that option to disable, but they haven’t – and they’ve neatly buried the privacy option so most users won’t see it. This is unethical and wrong.

Finally, nowhere in the Facebook announcement clearly states what Facebook is going to do with all this rich new check-in information they are getting (we’re providing them).  Are they going to use it only internally or are they going to share with and sell to partners? Is the data going to be anonymised or will I be identifiable? Facebook have a duty of care over the data we share with them and the first duty is to tell us what they do with the data so we can make informed choices as to how we use Facebook.

Overall Facebook Places will be a well received addition to the Facebook toolset. However privacy concerns over the new feature are not just noise nor are they carping comments from those not sharing in the Facebook success story. These are legitimate concerns and have very real adverse effects for the majority of Facebook users who are just not aware of what they are letting themselves in for.

Another Facebook scam – The “Official” Dislike Button

'Official' Dislike Button getting access to your dataSophos has reported on a Facebook Dislike Button and the story has been picked up by major sites such as the BBC and Mashable.  Essentially some nefarious folk have created an application which pretends to be the official Facebook Dislike Button, asks for access to your FB profile and asks personal questions on a survey which then point you to a Firefox download from an unrelated company.  Why do they do this? – because they want your private data that’s why; they can sell this on to others for a profit.  Sophos, BBC, Mashable and a host of others point out that you should be careful about what apps you allow access to your Facebook data and to be careful in answering surveys.  This is self-evidently true, but there is a deeper issue here – should Facebook control their application environment or not?

The advent of the Apple iPhone, the Google Android mobile phone system and Facebook has created a whole new application (App) marketplace where useful and/or fun apps can be downloaded for free or very low cost.  This has stimulated great innovation which has enriched all of our lives, but there are dangers to this free/low cost world.

we have forgotten the dangers inherent in any computer program which has access to our machine and our data

Over the years we have all become wary of downloading programs on our PCs/Macs without first checking they come from reputable companies or have reputable reviews on the web about them.  We see many such checks happening before people download SocialSafe – and quite right too.  However, because iPhones, Android phones, Facebook et al are immediate devices with many, many exciting apps available we have forgotten the dangers inherent in any computer program which has access to our machine and our data – we need to be just as careful with these small free/low cost apps as we have been and are with more major programs on our PCs/Macs.

Apple largely avoid the problem by managing their App store thoroughly.  This has the upside that you can download with confidence, but the downside that it can take a while for apps to be authorised – and presumably it costs Apple a lot of money for their staff to do the verification process.  The Android and Facebook systems are unmanaged app stores – anybody can post something in and it is available immediately – this is open to abuse.  Yes rogue apps can be taken down if they are shown to cause harm, but this is usually after the harm has been done – a true case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Ideally, I believe that both Facebook and Android should include an element of management into their app stores – a verified tick or similar.  This would highlight that unverified apps are potentially risky and that “buyer beware” principles should apply.

Until this happens please do ask yourself why an app needs access to your data, why they are asking you personal questions, why they need to post to your wall and check out whether there are any comments relating to an app before you download it.  We at SocialSafe adhere to the highest levels of privacy and integrity with regard to our app – we know that, but please do check it out for yourselves.

- Julian

Facebook Privacy Changes – a step forward?

Over the last few weeks there has been mounting criticism of Facebook’s privacy rules and changes.  I have been one of those – my point being that Facebook is so easy to use, yet the privacy controls so complex that I felt this was a deliberate policy to effectively trick users into greater openness than they realised.  Today Facebook announced changes in their privacy settings through their blog and with an updated privacy explanation page. So have Facebook done enough to counter the criticism?

My first reaction, and with only the two references to go on, is that they have moved to a simpler system which is good – though it is not as simple as it could be.  First the good bits:  It appears we do now have a one click ‘Master Control’ to set “your commonly used items” such as posts, photos, etc to Friends only, Friends of Friends, or Everyone – this is much, much better and is to be applauded.  Also in his post Mark Zuckerberg states “this control will also apply to settings in new products we launch going forward” – what this means is that if I set the ‘Master Control’ to ‘Friends only’, then future Facebook privacy control settings changes won’t override this – this is also a very good change (albeit one that should have been there before).  Finally, on the positive side Facebook now state that Friends Lists and Pages no longer HAVE to be public – I can set them to be Friends only – another long overdue change.  So in summary on the good parts, Facebook have listened and have moved to a simpler system.

Despite these very positive changes, I still have some reservations.  Facebook have listened (they had to!), but if you look just a little at the detail you can see that Facebook’s desire for you to make all your data open to the world and to lull you into ignoring privacy, is still as strong as it was.  This is most clear if you look at the “Recommended” settings in the diagram at the top of the privacy explanation page.

Why should it be recommended that all my posts and photos and family and relationships be open to “Everyone” on the internet?  Clearly most people will just click the recommended settings, which will also no doubt be applied by default for users, thereby giving up their privacy.  My issue here is that for the non-tech savvy they are being pushed in a direction which causes them to be more open than they are aware – I think this is not following the duty of care for their users that I would expect of a truly ethical company.  Nonetheless I can’t argue that it isn’t clear(ish) so, as Mark says in his post that this is the last change they are going to make to the privacy settings, it is now a case of if you like the constraints then use Facebook and if you don’t then quit.

There are a couple of other minor negatives such as the need to go to subsidiary privacy settings for some features (why???) and some other default settings that are questionable (e.g. do we really need our activities to be visible by default), but Facebook have at least been clear on their direction.  You may like it or may not – it is now up to the market to decide.  I suspect that with 400M+ users Facebook is still going to be a driving force on the internet for a while yet.  Will their radical approach to openness become the norm, or will users (eventually) drive back to a more private exchange of information with just their friends.  I am in the latter camp, but time will tell if I am in the minority or the majority.

Facebook Privacy – A deliberate deception?

Over the last few months the number of people who have been complaining about Facebook’s privacy policy have been rising.  What are they complaining about? – the fact that slowly the default Facebook privacy options are being made more and more open so that, unless you take specific action, more and more of what you write and exchange on Facebook is available to anyone on the internet.  There is a great site by Matt Mckeon which illustrates this change and how the pace of change (of default openness) is growing.

First of all is this an issue?  I would contend it is, and a very big one at that.  If I came to the Facebook site knowing that everything was open I would use it differently than if I came to the site knowing everything was private – where in this case private means shared only with those I choose, i.e. my friends.  What has happened is that the default privacy settings have been changed and many people don’t realise this.  What was once private is now open.  This is like you buying a mobile phone for private conversations, only to find a year later that your phone company is making all your calls available to the whole world – not good I would suggest!

Maybe you think its obvious that if you don’t change your privacy settings what you post will be public?  Well clearly this is not well known – if you’re in doubt have a look at this site – do you think people really wanted their DNA test discussions open to the world?

If I go back six months I thought the Facebook privacy issue was about education.  Facebook has privacy settings which anyone can use to restrict the openness of their information so surely it was only a matter of educating people to use them?  However, now I am not so sure – not only have I been caught out once or twice with privacy changes imposed by Facebook, I now think that Facebook have made it very hard to manage even for the IT literate and that this is directly opposite to the rest of the site.

Why has Facebook got 450M+ users – not only because it provides useful features that many of us want, but also because it is easy to use – so easy that one really doesn’t need much computer expertise at all.  But the privacy settings? – they are complex and difficult to use.  This is stretching my belief system too far – I can only conclude that Facebook have deliberately made it difficult and confusing.  They have the expertise to make them easy as the rest of the site shows.  At the end of the day how difficult would it be to have a single override box – “only share my stuff with my Friends”?  I am forced to conclude that Facebook are deliberately making it hard so that they can benefit from the disclosure of their users data (and benefit they do – massively).  I am therefore, albeit reluctantly, only able to conclude that Facebook are operating unethically – saying one thing and doing another.

It is a big step to go from the thought that all that is needed is some awareness to the statement that Facebook are operating unethically; however, there seems no other conclusion that can be reached.  There are clearly many others who think the same as the recent Facebook Suicide campaign for 31st May attest to.  The question is, are those complaining only a drop in the ocean or are they sufficient for Facebook to have to do something about it? – I await Facebook’s future communications with interest.  I am skeptical and think they will probably try some further obfuscation, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for a little while.

But is Facebook really any different from Google and other web sites which hold your personal data and/or haven’t we all changed, so as Mark Zuckerberg says, the default is social (which in his mind means 100% open)?  Let me take the last point first – the default for humans is indeed social, we like to interact with other people, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not private nor does it mean we want everybody to know everything about us.  The internet has not changed this any more than it changed basic business fundamentals of profit/loss (as people seemed to believe in the millennium internet bubble).  I do like to share my status and pictures with my friends, but not with the world.  I share different things with different groups of friends and acquaintances – deeper with my family, some other stuff with close friends, different again with my sports mates, with work colleagues, with those I drink with in the pub, etc.  I may share a lot, but that doesn’t make me 100% open and nor does it make me not care about privacy – I am a very private person too.  The bottom line is I choose what to share with whom – and I don’t want my choices overruled by someone else and especially not without my knowing.  That’s why we tend to get cross when friends betray our confidences.

Haven’t we all got a little more relaxed though in reality over the last decade?  Well yes to an extent I suppose we have.  In the era of big databases, we have got relaxed about our local supermarket recording everything we buy and our credit card company knowing our spending patterns.  They have an enormous amount of data on us and could probably tell us more about ourselves than we would really want to know – but they don’t.  More importantly, they don’t tell anyone else about that data except in big dataset terms – meaning they look for patterns amongst many people, and not the one.  Sure they use that knowledge of ourselves to target us with specific offers and adverts, but no one individual is looking at my data saying, “ah ha he buys too much of this” or whatever.  We’ve become comfortable with this data acquisition and use because it provides a benefit for us and no harm (provided data protection rules are followed) – it is a second level of privacy if you like.  Google with the data they collect from us are similar (apart from their Buzz debacle) , as are Apple with their iTunes library feature on which the Genius function is based, and so on.  The companies make more money by collecting this data on us, but we benefit to.

So why is Facebook different? – because they have an AND in their model.  They collect and use all the data we enter on their site and use it to make money by selling targeted adverts, games, etc – this is fair and reasonable because we get a free service and they have to make money somehow.  So what is the AND?  The AND is they do what the others do AND they share out data with the world because this gives them even more revenue streams.  It is this AND which they have got wrong – they are forcing it to happen instead of us allowing it to happen in a knowledgeable manner.  They are not only forcing it to happen, but I contend doing so in an underhand way, because I suspect they know we their users would not agree en masse if we all understood what they were doing.  It is this underhand deliberate forced disclosure which makes me believe they are being fundamentally unethical.

I would welcome your comments on this issue, for example am I right?  Are Facebook being unethical or have they inadvertently misunderstood the mood of their users?  Please do take the time to express your opinions below.

(I talked about this subject yesterday on the BBC Radio 4 programme “Today” )

Open disclosure: iBundle, the team behind SocialSafe, are launching a new product, DAD (www.dadapp.com), in late June which will have a private, secure sharing feature that can be used as an alternative to Facebook.  This product has been in production since early 2009 and is not the reason for this post – though the thoughts that led to the creation of DAD are apparent above.

Losing data – backup is key

A deep case of potential Schadenfraude over the last few days.  When we developed SocialSafe to backup your Facebook we did so because a few people we knew had had their Facebook accounts closed or somehow lost.  We never realsied then the power of having your digital diary available to you on your own PC/Mac, nor the level to which people were unaware that storing data in the ‘cloud’ does lead to vulnerabilities.  Those vulnerabilities have been greatly in the news in the last few days – Facebook have had huge problems with people unable to access their accounts, Microsoft have lost lots of users’ data with their Sidekick phones and Apple have lost people’s data when using guest accounts on the new Snow Leopard operating system.

The lesson learned is that all data is vulnerable to loss.  I am personally from the CTRL-S generation – when computers and software was sufficiently unstable that you learnt to save your data, CTRL-S, every time you completed a thought, a paragraph or 5 minutes had passed.  With the increasing stability and reliability of software this CTRL-S philosphy has slowly diminhsed – yet recent events show that nothing is that assured when it comes to digital data whether that be on the cloud or on your own machine.  The lesson is always have backups/copies of your data – in the case of Facebook this does mean that our application, SocialSafe, is a necessary application, if only for backup purposes,  Should I  be pleased about this? – well thats where the schadenfraude feeling comes into play – no is the answer – yes its a great Facebook backup tool, but I’d wish  that the digital diary aspect from our Time Capsule functionality was the main driver for its use.

However you do it though, please make sure you have your data, whether the originals are in the cloud or on your own computer, backed up safely in another location.  No one, especially me, likes to create anything twice and losing part of my digital life is a painful experience.

Cyber hackers target Facebook

Over the last few months since we launched SocialSafe as a backup tool for Facebook, we have seen it used for many different purposes: for account security (our original intent); to overcome the Walled Garden issue with getting data out of Facebook; to preserve your social history for the future using our Time Capsule feature.  However, the core functionality of allowing you to have your own copy of your Facebook data seems as important as ever as Facebook, with its truly phenomenal reach, becomes an ever bigger target for cyber hackers.

Today there was yet another article (from www.mediamughals.com) which shows the increasing sophistication of attacks on Facebook and hence the threat to user’s data.  Many of the attacks to date seem to be intended to lure users to other non-Facebook sites which can then infect a user’s computer with viruses, spyware, et al; however, the increasing sophistication of those targeting Facebook will pose ever greater threats to user’s own Facebook accounts.  If someone with bad intent can take over a valid Facebook account and send out spurious status messages with links to malware, then the likelihood of friends of that hijacked user going to the bad sites must increase significantly.  Facebook account hijacking will unfortunately become more common it seems – you only need to enter the terms “Facebook” and “hack” into Google or a Twitter search to see the intent out there.  Having your account hijacked will probably result in it being closed by Facebook and/or your data lost – a major blow in this social network era.

The benefits of using Facebook are its incredible reach and its many useful functions; the perils are that its popularity leads those with bad intent to see it is a juicy target.  However, you do it, having your own data available to you to be able to restore your account seems to be as prudent a step in protecting against cyber hackers as having a virus checker on your PC.

Social Applications – Are They Safe?

If you are anything like me then you probably download various applications from the internet – some for serious purposes, others just because they make your life that little bit easier, and others purely for fun.  But are these applications safe? – do they contain viruses, aim to steal your passwords or have other malicious intent?  Where did you hear about them?  Is security an issue for you?

If we go back several years, most applications were fairly significant and we probably all spent a little bit of time researching them and their background, user comments, etc before downloading and/or purchasing.  Now we have a myriad of quick and easy applications at our disposal for immediate use, for example on Facebook, on the iPhone and Android app stores, et al.  They are so easy to get, download and use that it seems no issue at all just to do so and give them a quick try – I for example have downloaded 74 iPhone apps of which I probably use no more that 10 with any regularity at all.

So why do I think this is an issue at all?  Two news stories have combined in my mind to set me thinking.  The first is Apple getting a fair amount of grief for the way they tightly control their App store with applications having to go through a two week approval process; this being compared to the Android store where any app can be posted and users are relied upon to identify and highlight rogue apps. The second story is actually a slowly increasing wave of stories about scamming applications on Facebook that send you off to web sites which host various forms of malware, and those which attempt to steal your password.  Now Facebook has a Verified Applications process, though it seems only a small number of apps have this (shown by a green tick) and I am not sure how many users are really aware of the mark; Facebook also scan their application’s infrastructure (I know this because they have been in contact with me regarding our app SocialSafe, and they have recently banned a whole number of apps), but they clearly cannot be on top of all the apps that come through.

We therefore seem to have two approaches at play:

  1. the walled garden approach (aka Apple’s App store) where the gate guardian decides what can and cannot get through – in this situation applications should be safe, but is the guardian playing fair with what gets through (Apple have taken a lot of flak recently about not immediately letting the Google Voice app through);
  2. the let anyone post an application and remove bad apps afterwards approach – allows a rapid innovation cycle and meets the open market needs which is really what the social web should be about; however, is prone to the unscrupulous passing off apps which can destroy data, hijack your computer, etc as real ones.

So is there an easy solution? – probably not!  The answer I have come up with is to have a mix of the two solutions.  Have an “Approved” app scheme where the underlying owner of the ecosystem which the app runs on (Apple, Facebook, Google Android, etc) defines strict rules and assesses apps against those rules and gives the apps, if they pass assessment, the right to use some quality logo.  Then have the free for all, any one can post an application process – still using rules to define what is expected of an app, but allowing apps to be posted without any prior checking and relying on the user community to raise to the ecosystem owners any bad apps.  In this way as a user I can choose the level of risk I wish to expose myself to – if I am very risk averse I go only with approved apps; if I am a little more open I can go with unapproved apps but those I know reputable people recommend or are from reputable companies I trust already; if I am more adventurous I can try the unapproved and unknown apps.  This does require knowledge of the risks from the users – something the ecosystem owners would need to ensure was clear to their user base.

In this way we could get the best of both worlds – hopefully.


Facebook – A Responsible Approach to Data Ownership

Our application SocialSafe was launched in mid-June this year and in its first version allowed users to download to their desktop computer details of their Friends, their own profile, all their photos and also 3rd party photos in which the user was tagged.  All this was accomplished using the comprehensive Facebook API which developers can use for free, subject to Facebook’s Terms of Service.  From reviews and comments received SocialSafe has been welcomed by all as an extremely valuable service; however, whilst acknowledging the utility of SocialSafe, Facebook have raised the question to us of whether we are breaching the privacy rules associated with Facebook data by downloading tagged photos without explicit permission from the users who posted the photos.

We had considered this originally and felt that as the SocialSafe user was in the photo and as the originator’s privacy settings allowed the user to see and be tagged in the photo that this was giving implicit permission for the user to download the photo; however, as this was not a clear cut case we included a notification process to tell the photo originator that our SocialSafe user had downloaded the photo.  After receiving an indication from Facebook that they felt that explicit permission was required, rather than the implicit permission we were relying on, we re-evaluated our policy.  Taking the view that we have already expressed on this blog that the data belongs to the originator (summed up in the phrase “Its your data”), we are making some changes because whilst it is OK to download to your desktop any data you have originated on Facebook through the Facebook API, we believe downloading any data from another user does require explicit permission from that other user.

As a result we will this week put out an update to SocialSafe which temporarily removes the tagged photo download functionality (the update also includes a new Time Capsule feature).  We will be restoring the tagged photo functionality in a subsequent version we hope to release in two to three weeks, but this time we will include a smart method for friends of the SocialSafe user to explicitly authorise or prohibit the download of their photos for that SocialSafe user.  This will involve users in an extra step, but will ensure that SocialSafe follows the cleanest data policy of all – the user who originates data owns it and must authorise anybody else to use it.

We recognise that users who have bought SocialSafe to date have done so in good faith believing that the existing functionality will remain as is, whilst future updates will come with increasing functionality (such as the Time Capsule feature being released this week).  We believe that we have found a good solution to downloading tagged photos, but ultimately some of our existing users may not agree and may feel that we have unilaterally reduced the available functionality to their detriment.  If you are such a user then we are happy to offer you an unconditional refund of your payment to us – please just contact us with a request for repayment and we will do so within 3 days and hopefully sooner.

At SocialSafe we are, as our name suggests, committed to keeping your social data safe and to having the most explicit and correct privacy policy to protect everyone’s data.  We believe the change in policy we have described above reflects this and we hope you feel so too.  Future updates to SocialSafe will follow this policy, as will other products from the iBundle stable (iBundle and 1minus1 are Joint Venture partners in the production of SocialSafe).

Julian Ranger

Chairman iBundle & SocialSafe

SocialSafe – a new Facebook application – can you trust us?

Over the weekend I engaged with @treypennington through Twitter and one aspect of the conversation was how can users trust our SocialSafe Facebook application because we are a new business? – on what basis is trust given or earned?  A fascinating question for us at SocialSafe because we are involved in backups of user’s Facebook data – if we are not trusted to follow Facebook privacy rules then people won’t use our application.  I have searched the internet on this issue and found lots of problem reports of spam generation, phishing and worse, but not a lot on how to actually determine whether an application or service is trustworthy – clearly a difficult issue.

Facebook contains an enormous amount of data about yourself and your friends and when you let an application use your logon details that is a huge amount of trust you are placing in the application – the Facebook API allows access to most of the data Facebook has for you, and this is not controlled in the same way as your Facebook privacy settings work for friends.  There are rules and principles posted by Facebook for application authors to follow, but have they followed them? – there is no way to check.

First stop for anyone looking at a new service if you do not know who is providing it or have not been recommended to it by someone else you trust, must be the Privacy Policy of the website behind the application/service and/or their T&Cs/Terms of Service.  See what they say and think about whether the use they are going to put your data to is reasonable.  For example we at SocialSafe make a strong point that we do NOT see any of your data – our application sits on your computer and your data downloads from Facebook to your computer without us at SocialSafe seeing it in any way (other than anonymous stats that you have to enable).

Another aspect of trust that Trey mentioned which I had not thought of before was who are we? – not the company, but the founders behind the company.  A good point I think – if we put down our biographies and there is some history to what we’ve done then that is at least a pointer to our trustworthiness or not.  Of course we could lie in those bios, but some searching on the internet would expose that (I hope!).  This is difficult for the younger entrepreneurs I acknowledge as they do not necessarily have the history of accomplishments, but honesty can come across in writing and so even the bio of an 18 year old entrepreneur is worthwhile I suggest.  We are changing our web site to reflect this point and will refer to our two founding companies, iBundle and 1Minus1, and will be adding bios to our details at iBundle.

So that gives two methods of researching the trustworthiness or not of an app.  Apart from personal recommendations (and on what basis do those involve knowing whether the app is trustworthy?) what other methods are there? – I’d love to hear from you what you think of this issue and any methods you use.

A social web has to be a trustworthy web – anything that can be done to improve true trust (whilst retaining usability) must be a good thing.