Facebook apps are third-party programs that function on the Facebook platform. Software developers and companies create these apps to add new features to the Facebook experience – from contest creation to full-blown online stores.
Whether they want to advertise their company and build brand awareness, directly generate revenue, or contribute to a particular community, businesses and developers have many reasons for putting together an app that uses Facebook for its foundation.
People and businesses running Facebook Pages use these apps to expand the functionality beyond basic features and improve the visitor experience. They want to stand out from other pages, and apps are an excellent way to accomplish this goal.
1. Do Facebook Applications Require Special Legal Policies?
In short — YES.
Since you’re building your app for Facebook’s platform, you have to adhere to Facebook’s legal policy requirements. The company has a Platform Policy that outlines what you need to do to meet their legal requirements before you publish your app.
The relevant section in this document is the second, entitled “Give people control.”
This section covers:
- The need to get proper consent from app users before you publish content on their pages
- What you can and can’t do with user sharing features
- How you can use user data
Facebook only allows you to collect and use user data that is essential for your app’s operation. If you attempt to gather information that’s not relevant to its functionality, Facebook may take adverse action against you, such as deactivating your app or banning you from the platform entirely.
Anyone using your app doesn’t have to provide information that goes beyond the basic details in their profile. Private information that they offer can only be used for the app experience on Facebook. Taking any of this data off-site can result in severe consequences.
If you request data that relates to the user’s friends on the social network, the only way you can use this is to enhance the user’s experience.
Thinking about pulling user data into advertisements for your app? That’s yet another prohibited action.
Finally, you can’t sell any of the app’s user data and you’re required to delete all of this data if the app is no longer on the platform or functional.
2. What about Terms and Conditions for Facebook Apps?
You can include terms that explain the acceptable use of your Facebook app, prohibited actions that lead to user termination, the terms covering user-generated content, and various other terms.
In addition to Facebook’s Platform Policy, you also need to follow the legal guidelines for your region.
Don’t take the risk – generate terms of service with help from professionals to save yourself from a future headache.
3. What to Include in Privacy Policies for Facebook Apps
- Explain the type of data you collect and how your app uses it to power its functionality
- Mention how the data is displayed in the app
- Cover what data – if any – is shared
- Discuss how the data gets transferred to the app
- Talk about the method you use to delete user data if someone requests removal, the app is deactivated by Facebook, or you discontinue the app
- How long you intend to save user data
- How you store the data
- What you do with financial data stored on your app
Your app is also subject to regional laws. For example, if you’re US-based, the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA) would apply to your app if you’re working with personally identifiable information.
- Providing your name and contact information
- User rights of withdrawing consent and deleting data
- Names of any third-parties gaining access to user data
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a new European law set to come into effect on May 25th, 2018, will be replacing this directive. You may want to prepare now for those upcoming changes.
Facebook apps are a powerful tool for your business, whether you’re building brand awareness or innovating in the software development field.