Five changes to Moves' privacy policy post-Facebook acquisition

By Jonah Comstock

JONAH_COMSTOCK_HEADSHOTDespite making an unprompted promise not to "commingle" data with Facebook at the time of the acquisition announcement, ProtoGeo, maker of the Moves app, has updated its privacy policy, possibly to do just that.

The overhaul to the app's privacy terms is significant, with the previously 700-word document nearly doubling in length (it now comes in at 1,275 words). Some of that is just the reality of big company lawyers overhauling a document drafted by a startup, but some of it constitutes potentially significant changes in how Moves will use its customers' data. What remains to be seen is whether the changes in what Moves can do with the data will translate to what the company actually does do. MobiHealthNews has reached out to Facebook for a comment and will update if they respond.

Given Facebook's focus on collecting customer data in its core product, many have speculated that this acquisition is all about data, and giving Facebook even more access into exactly where its users go and what they do. MobiHealthNews, conversely, has suggested plenty of possible reasons for the acquisition that have nothing to do with data.

Still and all, these privacy changes do raise some questions. Right off the bat, the new terms are for not just Moves, but any future product from ProtoGeo -- and by downloading the app, users consent to not just "processing of data" but "processing and disclosure" of data. Here's a list of other changes between the two versions: 

1. Assurances of anonymity in data collection have been stricken

Moves' original privacy policy included some assurances about what the company will not do with user data, as well as explaining what they will do. Here's the original language:

"We may use aggregated data over several users to improve our algorithms, measure service usage, publish summaries online or offline, and to develop new features such as recognizing popular activity routes, areas and places. We will not display or otherwise disclose information where individual users can be recognized. Furthermore, our developers need to occasionally review raw data and the results for recognized activities/routes/places to improve the system. They will only see the unique identifier number with the data."

Here's the post-Facebook version, which notably omits the promise of anonymity in data collection:

"Other ways we use your data include to develop aggregated analyses and reports that help us improve our algorithms, measure and understand how our Services are used, and to develop new products, services and features such as by recognizing popular activities, routes, areas and places. We also use your information to communicate with you, such as by sending you notifications and service-related messages, or by responding to your requests and questions."

Facebook also added a section to the terms giving the app permission to use cookies.

2. The section on third party data use is expanded

Moves' old policy said the company would not give out data except in three cases: the user has given explicit consent, the company is legally obligated to give out data, or the company is acquired. Under the new terms, Moves can also share user data -- explicitly including personally identifiable data -- with Facebook, other companies affiliated with Facebook, and "service providers or other partners that work on our behalf to support our business". That makes for a broad-ranging group that could feasibly include telling businesses how many Moves users visited them, for instance.

3. Children are no longer allowed to use Moves

Somewhat oddly, the new terms include the clause "our Services are not directed towards and may not be used by persons under 15." This likely protects Moves against the rather stricter laws that govern children's information privacy online or on mobile devices.

4. You can now download your data 

Previously, Moves privacy terms said there was no way to access Moves data other than through the app. Now, they say "you may download a copy of your Moves information using the tool we provide on our website by signing in with your email and account." According to the website, users can now download data as a ZIP file, containing data in multiple formats, including JSON, CSV, KML, GPX and ICS.

5. Moves will be less transparent about future changes

Moves has removed the link to older versions of its privacy policy that previous versions had at the bottom of the document (MobiHealthNews used a cached version for the comparison.) They still promise to inform users of changes, though they no longer specify Twitter as a channel for that information. Finally, the old version read "if you do not agree to the altered privacy policy, you will not be bound by it if you stop using Moves before the alterations become effective." The new one says simply "If you do not agree to the altered privacy policy, you may stop using our Services."