WSJ: iPhone and Android apps can breach your privacy

“Few devices know more personal details about people than the smartphones in their pockets: phone numbers, current location, often the owner’s real name—even a unique ID number that can never be changed or turned off,” Scott Thurm and Yukari Iwatani Kane report for The Wall Street Journal.

“These phones don’t keep secrets. They are sharing this personal data widely and regularly, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found,” Thurm and Kane report. “An examination of 101 popular smartphone “apps”—games and other software applications for iPhone and Android phones—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 outsiders.”

Thurm and Kane report, “Apps sharing the most information included TextPlus 4, a popular iPhone app for text messaging. It sent the phone’s unique ID number to eight ad companies and the phone’s zip code, along with the user’s age and gender, to two of them. Both the Android and iPhone versions of Pandora, a popular music app, sent age, gender, location and phone identifiers to various ad networks. iPhone and Android versions of a game called Paper Toss—players try to throw paper wads into a trash can—each sent the phone’s ID number to at least five ad companies.”

Read more in the full article here.

21 Comments

  1. Bad. Apple oversees other mal-issues concerning aps. I believe Apple should require more openness in telling us what each ap actually sends or monitors. That could be a required part of the ap description itself. It could also be tested as part of Apple’s approval process, not that slowing the approval process down would be a good thing. But this is an important issue and may be even more critical down the road.

  2. To : H. Wells

    Did it ever occur to you that the App Creator’s is Slipping in the API to Pull this information in a update after the Submission to Apple of the Main Application Process, then when given the application approval from Apple, the same application is uploaded, but with the added “EXTRA” API to pull the ID information, therefore, skirting around Apples approval process.

    Think about it, It’s already been talked about on how this could have been done, and this is the most likely way, Android has the same problem also, and they don’t have as strict guidelines as Apple in the Application submission process.

    Apple will be Pulling these Applications due to the Violation, They will investigate, and if found guilty of a violation Apple will act swiftly to send a message to the rest of the development community to play by the rules or go elsewhere.

    I Don’t Blame Apple for this, or even see this as a bad thing, Hell you have Idiots Putting there lives on Facebook every day, And those who complain about this are just hypocrites..

    Everyone that posts online & everyone that has a email can be tracked cataloged and found including more information found out by what the smart phone UID sent out.

    Think about it.

    You Give Up Something, For Something Else … It’s always a tradeoff.

  3. It’s reprehensible. Apple is really losing its appeal if it starts acting like MS or Google.

    ALL datamining, by law, should be opt-in and not a prerequisite for data services. “more relevant ads” is not a reason to allow your personal data to be swiped at every turn.

    If the user is already paying ANY data service fee, then there should be no ads pushed to the user without his/her explicit consent.

    Look how crappy cable TV, originally the “ad-free alternative to broadcast TV” has become. The mobile ad industry is an order of magnitude worse.

  4. @ Scott B : you might think differently if some spammer got ahold of your credit card information, or social security #, private photos, or other sensitive information. With no laws to protect us, and no corporate consciousness to do the right thing, then you can expect to eventually be electronically raped by the scumbags of the internets.

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