News With Friends uses several different tools to make everything work. Some things we’ve built ourselves, and some things are provided to us by other companies.
There are two main parts of News With Friends – the news and your friends. We’ll explain how we’ve done the news part soon. For now, we want to explain how we handle your data and what it means to be “friends” here.
Where is the data?
News With Friends consists of a user-facing client app and some databases that talk to the app. The client app is built using a development environment called React Native. The databases holding all the user data are held with a service called Firebase which is provided by Google.
The combination of React and Firebase means we can make a very compelling app that benefits from all the infrastructure and security and privacy controls that many people before us have developed in recent years.
When you download the app to your phone you are holding the client in your hand. The data provided to it, including your profile data and data from your friends, is delivered to you on your device over the Internet and your phone network via Firebase servers. Those servers are owned, controlled, and managed by Google, and they are subject to Google’s own Cloud Platform terms.
What kind of data is being used and for what purpose?
Firebase is certified under the major privacy and security standards (see more). When customers like us use Firebase, Google is the official data processor for personal data and they will adhere to the standards required of them under the legal provisions of things like GDPR, among others.
In our case we rely on Firebase to handle some specific data and use cases:
|Data||What it’s for|
|User profile||We store a username and email address for each person. We also keep the date the person first created an account, and we record a date for the last time a person updated any information about themselves. If a person logged in using Facebook or Google there will be a token from the authenticating services instead of a password stored in the user’s database record on Firebase’s servers. If a person created an account directly with us then we store a password for that person using Firebase’s secure authentication procedures.|
|Friends||Friend profiles become available to both friends when a connection is agreed between them both (more here). That means both friends will have access to the full profile information of each other, including email address. However, friend connections can only be triggered if they already have a copy of eachother’s contact information. In no circumstances will a person’s profile data be shared with someone with whom they haven’t already agreed to connect with.|
|Reading activity||News With Friends is a shared reading experience. That means when you tap or click on an article we record that activity in the database and make it available to your friends and vice versa. We offer controls for hiding your activity and for muting a friend’s activity. When hiding is turned on we stop recording activity entirely. The data won’t exist. Also, reading activity is only stored for users who are logged in. We do not store reading activity for logged out users. Our analytics tools will record behaviours and report on them in aggregate for both logged out and logged in users, but it cannot be matched to individual users or accounts (more below).|
|Suggestions||Similar to reading activity, we collect and distribute explicit suggestions. People can tap or click a star on a piece of news. That choice is recorded and then used to distribute the selected news items to all the friends of the user who suggested it.|
|Messages||News With Friends also hosts conversations between people. Messages sent from one person to another are only seen by the intended receiver and nobody else. While the messages are private we do not yet claim to have the same level of security as a more advanced messaging platform such as Signal from Whisper Systems. We will continue to improve our security, so keep an eye out for updates from us.|
|Advertising||We do not yet employ advertising on News With Friends. If we do decide to use advertising we will do so with the intent of improving the experience here, and we will adhere to these same privacy protections and data policies. We are committed to offering a commercial service that people value and understand, and we won’t provide user data to any 3rd party unless a user explicitly instructs us to do so on their behalf. We will not be using any random 3rd party ad network.|
|IP addresses||The analytics tools used by News With Friends tell us aggregate numbers about things like user retention, conversion funnels and time spent. In order to provide those figures they collect IP addresses and track the taps and clicks and journeys each IP address appears to take. Our analytics provider is Google Analytics which, like Firebase, adheres to Google’s data and privacy policies and standards. IP addresses and their behaviour data are not connected to individual user accounts. We don’t know your IP address.|
How does data get removed?
We have a combination of automatic and manual processes for erasing any user data held by us our our providers. If you wish to walk back your relationship with News With Friends we will remove your profile data, reading activity, suggestions and connections with all your friends upon request. We provide several options for you to reduce your data footprint with our services on your own. You can remove friends, hide your activity, log out of the app and delete it from your phone, but we understand if you wish to do something more permanent.
Please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What if things change?
Our privacy and data protection policies will most certainly change over time as more people use the app and diverse groups with different concerns become known to us. In order to keep you informed we will send emails and make announcements through our own channels and through other public channels such as Twitter and Facebook.
Please keep an eye out for announcements from us and always feel free to get in touch, too. We can be reached at: email@example.com.