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[Click to enlarge] Your favorite iOS and Android apps just LOVE to share. Some share your info with advertisers with your permission -- others do it without.  (Source: WSJ)
Investigation reveals a wealth of data is being passed for profit -- some permitted; some without asking...

An investigation by the Wall Street Journal has confirmed what many smartphone users have long feared – many of your apps are mining your personal data.  

The study examined the transmissions of 101 Android (Google) and iOS (Apple) apps.  According to the report:

[The results] showed that 56 transmitted the phone's unique device ID to other companies without users' awareness or consent. Forty-seven apps transmitted the phone's location in some way. Five sent age, gender and other personal details to outsider.

A common use of the data was to sell it to advertisers.  "TextPlus 4", a top iOS app, sold the phone's unique ID number to eight ad companies and the user's age and gender, to two of them.  "Paper Toss", the best-selling Android and iOS app, sent the phone's ID to five companies.  And the ever-popular Pandora internet radio app sent the user's age, gender, location and phone IDs to advertisers.

Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr claimed in a comment to the 
WSJ, "We have created strong privacy protections for our customers, especially regarding location-based data.  Privacy and trust are vitally important."

Despite "strong privacy protections", many app makers are sending location data to advertisers.  And those advertisers, in theory, could pass that information on to whoever they please.  While some apps (like Pandora) require the user to briefly approve sharing their location, other approved apps like the iOS's "Pumpkin Maker" share the information with no request for permission.  The maker of this app claimed ignorance of Apple's policy when contacted by the 
WSJ.

More troublesome still, some apps -- including Angry Birds and DoodleJump -- were found to be transmitting the user's screen name or password to advertisers -- information that could be used to compromise weakly passworded accounts.

While PC users can block tracking via browser extensions and deleting cookies, smart phone users don't have the same kind of options.  Ultimately the choice at this point appears to be -- accept that some of your information will be sold to advertisers or don't use smart phone apps.





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Doesn't Surprise Me
By Darkk on 12/20/2010 2:33:30 PM , Rating: 2
There is no such thing as free lunch so all those free apps have to be paid for somehow.

I wish the app would warn you that it will send information to adverts. Most of them time it don't.




RE: Doesn't Surprise Me
By FITCamaro on 12/20/2010 2:39:51 PM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't mind the government requiring that app makers say whether or not the app shares data.

But that's a stones throw compared to the other article with an "Online Privacy Bill of Rights".


RE: Doesn't Surprise Me
By cjohnson2136 on 12/20/2010 2:51:05 PM , Rating: 2
I would agree, I understand that the develoeprs making free apps need to make a living but just a little dialog box that say this information is being sent. Now I don't think anything like username or password should be sent or location shouldn't be sent if a users age is under a certain limit. All in all I don't think it is horrible having advertisers knowing that so many males of this age in this area are interested in whatever


RE: Doesn't Surprise Me
By Luticus on 12/20/2010 3:19:35 PM , Rating: 2
It seems like every day I'm getting new reasons to swear off of this new generation of smart phones and sticking with my winmo6 phone. I wonder if this same situation is true on windows phone 7... Who knows...


RE: Doesn't Surprise Me
By inighthawki on 12/20/2010 3:18:31 PM , Rating: 2
That's just wrong, your assumption is that everyone plans on making money from apps. There are plenty of hobbyists who do it in their spare time just for the experience and to share what they made with everyone else.


RE: Doesn't Surprise Me
By cjohnson2136 on 12/20/2010 4:02:00 PM , Rating: 2
I would agree, I am trying to make cell phone apps as for fun but there are develoeprs who do it for money. I don;t think he is saying all do it but there are some


RE: Doesn't Surprise Me
By Luticus on 12/20/2010 3:21:22 PM , Rating: 5
What's interesting to me is that for all the reasons apple denies apps you'd think unauthorized data mining would be one of them.


RE: Doesn't Surprise Me
By sprockkets on 12/20/2010 8:38:23 PM , Rating: 3
When you install an Android app, it warns you what the app has access to.

Same with Chrome.


RE: Doesn't Surprise Me
By FITCamaro on 12/20/2010 10:29:08 PM , Rating: 2
True enough.


RE: Doesn't Surprise Me
By Aloonatic on 12/21/2010 3:40:31 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah there are warnings about most things, but I've not seen a warning that mentions my user name and password being shared. On that point.
quote:
...were found to be transmitting the user's screen name or password to advertisers -- information that could be used to compromise weakly passworded accounts.
Just wondering how the strength of your password makes any difference when it's being shared anyway?

One, less than cunning, "trick" that many apps (looking at you facebook) seem to like to do is offer "updates" to apps that don't really add anything, but have a much longer list of information that they "need" access too.

I guess these app makers and such should fill their boots while they can. Governments are going to wake up to this sooner or later. The EU will almost certainly start to investigate.


RE: Doesn't Surprise Me
By Omega215D on 12/20/2010 9:05:36 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah, I'd like an Admiral Akbar tone notification stating: It's a TRACK!


RE: Doesn't Surprise Me
By cmdrdredd on 12/21/2010 1:07:51 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I wish the app would warn you that it will send information to adverts. Most of them time it don't.


Every time I've installed an app, it warns me about what info is being sent.


RE: Doesn't Surprise Me
By Souka on 12/21/2010 1:04:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
There is no such thing as free lunch so all those free apps have to be paid for somehow.


Even the paid version of the apps do this...


This just in....
By Macuser89 on 12/20/2010 11:20:10 PM , Rating: 2
Someone makes an app that fakes or blocks the data other apps try to collect.

It would be a worthy feature to a phone anti virus.




RE: This just in....
By SkullOne on 12/21/2010 8:47:22 AM , Rating: 2
Except on Android it's not possible because of the way the applications are sandboxed from each other. So in this case an app downloaded from the market wouldn't work.

What we need is a firewall built into Android itself and have it prompt the user with information about the data being transmitted so that you can just deny that data from being transmitted forever.


Here's a nice comparision of apps
By Souka on 12/21/2010 1:43:04 PM , Rating: 2
Easy Tether Lite vs PdaNet
Quite a difference in what they want access to, yet PdaNet is much more preferered.

(Note, this info is from Sept. 2010 when I gathered it initially)

EasyTether Lite – 7800+ ratings
Network Communications – Full internet access
Phone Calls – State and identity

PdaNet – 24,000+ ratings
Your Messages – read SMS, or MMS, receive SMS
Network Communication – create Bluetooth connections, Full internet access
Your personal information – read contact data
Services that cost you money – send SMS messages
System tools – Bluetooth administration




RE: Here's a nice comparision of apps
By Souka on 12/21/2010 5:55:58 PM , Rating: 2
Oh wait...now I rememebr... PdaNet has some SMS functionality hence the "SMS" and "read contact data"

Still makes one pause.


Obviously..
By DKantUno on 12/20/2010 2:47:55 PM , Rating: 3
Demographic data gets better ad results and better revenue for the developers - which, when you rely on ads, is minuscule as it is. Sharing user-id's and passwords just seems downright creepy though (mostly because it seems completely unnecessary). Device id's also don't seem necessary to pass on in any way..creepy again.




Pandora
By bplewis24 on 12/20/2010 4:04:56 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
And the ever-popular Pandora internet radio app sent the user's age, gender, location and phone IDs to advertisers.


This doesn't surprise me. Last week I received the prompt to update Pandora to the newest version on my smartphone. I quickly checked the user comments and saw a flood of 1-star ratings due to Pandora requesting many more permissions than they have in the past, including access to your contact information.

Many people uninstalled the app immediately, apparently. I may do the same (I haven't done the update).

Brandon




Building a profile
By White Widow on 12/21/2010 10:56:09 PM , Rating: 2
By capturing a unique device ID and location data, ad companies can build an "anonymous" profile of you for ad targeting.

If your phone spends most of its time at an address known to be a high school, then at certain stores, then at an address in a certain neighborhood, its pretty easy to define your demographic and market to you.

It does raise the issue of "anonymous" since all you have to do is correlate this "anonymous" info with some public records searching and - voila! - your phone's "unique ID" isn't that privacy barrier you thought it was.

I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, but I do think consumers need to be FULLY aware what is being shared, with whom, and under what conditions. This should be a truly informed, opt-in system.




"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA













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