With constant changes to Facebook’s interface, Google’s suite of products, and privacy policies on both those services, it’s very difficult to feel like an informed user, much less one who keeps her data secure. AVG PrivacyFix (free), a new app from the security software company AVG, walks you through the privacy policies and settings that it thinks you should review. It doesn’t actually make any changes to your account for you without your permission—and it’s explicit about that fact. AVG wants you to make those decisions for yourself, and in that way, the PrivacyFix app is highly educational in nature.
AVG Privacy is available for iPhone (which is the focus of this review), Android, and on the desktop as a browser plug-in for Chrome and Firefox. The desktop version of the app includes a review of your LinkedIn account, too, but that’s not available in the mobile version.
I like that it highlights what you should check and provides a very brief “pro” and “con” regarding what will happen if you enable or disable certain account settings. The main app screen is something of a dashboard. When you first launch the app, you have to connect it to the services of your choice (Facebook, Google, or both), and then the dashboard shows you a list of things you might want to review or disable. If the setting in question is as locked down as it can be, a green circle with a checkmark appears next to it. If AVG is sort of on the fence about the setting (“less privacy allowed” is the terminology used in the app), a green circle with exclamation point appears. And if you see an orange circle with an exclamation point, that means the setting requires your attention.
I like that the mid-level privacy stuff isn’t called out in yellow or orange because in many cases when I reviewed my settings, I did indeed have my account exactly as I intended. For example, in my Google account, I let Google keep my search history because I use the Google Now features in the Google Search app, and it’s only really useful if that setting is enabled. (When I want privacy from Google, I just sign out.)
As mentioned, the app is very educational in nature. For example, when I saw an alert to check my iPhone’s ad tracking settings (the only iOS-specific privacy check included, unfortunately), I found a very detailed explanation of how to disable this feature, with screenshots and all. But it was still up to me to follow those directions and get the deed done. Other screens let you toggle privacy settings on and off directly, and if you scroll way to the top of the page (which is hidden by default), you can see that the account is question, e.g., Facebook, is actually itself being displayed. In other words, you’re not entering these changes into AVG PrivacyFix and having the service make the changes for you; rather, the app is displaying your actual Facebook account and letting you change the settings directly. You don’t have to leave the AVG app to do it, but you are still going directly to Facebook.
AVG PrivacyFix has push notifications, too, so that it can alert you to new privacy risks as they happen, as well as policy changes. It could be very useful, but it will rely on AVG to keep up with not just the changes to the policy itself, but also the setting locations and instructions to turning them on or off. Time will tell if the company keeps pace.
AVG PrivacyFix is a good app for people who need a little help keeping up with basic privacy policies in Facebook, Google, and on their iPhones. Power users will find it extremely light in utility, though, because it’s mostly educational in nature.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc