As the “What are your most used words on Facebook?” app became a viral phenomenon, people began asking about the company that created the wordcloud and its privacy practices.

Earlier this week, we published an interview with Jonghwa Kim, the CEO and founder of Vonvon, the South Korean company that created the ‘most used words’ app and other quizzes. After that story appeared, Kim followed up with a more extended rebuttal of some of the criticism of his company’s privacy practices, particularly the analysis posted by the Comparitech blog, which called the app a “privacy nightmare” after analyzing all the data it required.

I’m posting Kim’s response mostly in full, though with some minor edits for clarity.

Kim was clear that he believed Comparitech’s assertions were “false,” and that Vonvon’s privacy policies are not so different from other companies (including Comparitech’s). However, he did acknowledge that Vonvon also tweaked the word cloud app earlier this week to reduce the amount of data it requested from Facebook users.

Here are Kim’s response:

1. Does Vonvon store user’s personal information?

Kim: “We only use your information to generate your results, and we never store it for other purposes. For example, in the case of the Word Cloud, the results image is generated in the user’s Web browser, and the information gathered from the user’s timeline to create personalized results are not even sent to our servers. Also, in the case of our quiz ‘What do people talk behind my back?’ we ask questions about the user’s school and hometown so that we may pull up close friends in the results. We use this information only to process familiarity of friends, and again, the information is never stored in our databases.”

2. Why does Vonvon request personal information unrelated to the Word Cloud quiz?

Kim: “As mentioned above, vonvon.me creates a variety of quizzes for entertainment purposes only and leverages various user data to produce the most engaging and customized result. (** WE EMPHASIZE AGAIN WE ONLY USE USER DATA TO PRODUCE CONTENT AND NEVER SAVE THEM**) We have asked our users for a comprehensive list of access privilege so that they can enjoy our vast library of quizzes as smoothly as possible. However, we do realize that some of our users are worried about their privacy protection. To accommodate these concerns proactively,we adjusted our scope of data request to the minimum requirement to produce each separate content as of 9pm KST, Nov. 23.”

3. Does Vonvon sell personal information to a third-party? 

Kim: “As we do not store any personal information, we have nothing to sell. Period.”

4. How do you respond to critics who say your privacy policy is not transparent?

Kim: “The mentioned blog post describes our Privacy Policy as ‘not fully transparent,’ but comparing our policy to those of other sites in our industry such as buzzfeed.com and playbuzz.com would reveal how our privacy policy is more than up to par.

For example, playbuzz.com states they may share user information with affiliates, partners, and other trusted business and individuals (including advertisers):

“Playbuzz may share your information (including your Personal Information) with its affiliates, partners, and other trusted business and individuals that provide playbuzz, or to which playbuzz provides, with a variety of services, such as publishers and advertisers that work with playbuzz, developers that create the quizzes and other content is this WebSite, and service providers who process such information for us, so they can help us provide and improve our services.”

In terms of buzzfeed.com (http://buzzfeed.com/), here is its privacy policy:

“We employ and contract with service providers – individuals and entities that perform certain tasks on our behalf. We may need to share Personal Information with our service providers in order to provide products or services to you. We do not authorize our service providers to use Personal Information or other information we share with them beyond what is necessary to assist us.”

On the other hand, as we never had the objective to share user information to third parties, we limited our privacy policy to sharing user information only for Compliance with Laws or only when it is Non-Personal Aggregate Information. In fact, we had similar issues in Japan few month ago when we had the clause that we might share personal information with 3rd parties , and since we hadn’t and have no intention to share personal information with 3rd parties, we actively deleted that clause.

See for yourself the whole document:
http://en.vonvon.me/terms/privacy_policy.html?_hv=d797157

And here is comparitech.com’s privacy policy:

“Use and Sharing of PII: User PII collected by us may be added to our databases and used for future marketing purposes, including but not limited to, e-mail and direct marketing…Other than the uses set forth in this Privacy Policy, RWM (owner of Comparitech) does not share User PII with any third-party. Please note, however, that RWM may change this Policy at any time (See “Changes to this Policy,” below).

“Changes to This Policy: RWM may, from time to time, amend this Policy, in whole or part, in its sole discretion. Any changes to this Policy will be effective immediately upon the posting of the revised policy. By continuing to use the Site following any changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes.”

Kim added: “Taken out of context, I think all privacy policies can seem sketchy.”