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    San Francisco Chronicle: Stanford project aims to gauge online privacy

    The San Francisco Chronicle reports on a project at Stanford University concerning online privacy.

    As our lives have become more intertwined with the digital world, privacy advocates have become increasingly worried that we are often left with little other choice but to sign away any privacy concerns in the name of enjoying a fun or necessary service.

    But a project at Stanford University is looking to change that with WhatApp.org, a Web forum where users can review and compare the privacy, security and openness of Internet and mobile applications.

    The Web site grades applications on a five-point scale based on reviewers’ answers to questions like: Can an application offer the same things without requesting so much information about the user? Or can users see and contribute to the source code? […]

    WhatApp’s site, which the Stanford News Service described as a mix of Consumer Reports, Yelp and Wikipedia with a focus on privacy and security, released a beta version last month and lists reviews for about 240 browser, social-networking and mobile applications. […]

    But even if sites like WhatApp offer to make privacy policies easier to digest, it is unclear what such efforts will reveal about users’ attitudes toward the issue.

    On the one hand, it is not uncommon for Web users to post without hesitation private details about their lives that can embarrass them, or give malicious parties enough information to impersonate them or infiltrate their online accounts. […]

    On the other hand, a peek into privacy-related news suggests growing concerns about the issue.

    A recent Sophos survey found that 95 percent of respondents disagreed with proposed changes in Facebook that would allow the popular social network to share user information with third-party Web sites.

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