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. Did you even bother to read the Article.

    If you did, Go back to School son, Your reading Comprehension is atrocious.

    You said nothing at all that had to do about Apple,

    This is About a few Application Developers Going Around and …

    Ah h Forget ti you won’t understand..

  2. Ok great let the Government control What?

    Hell, They “GOVT” Can’t even get along with themselves, and you want govt. control.

    No thanks, I fought for my Country, But I draw a line when I hear someone say they want Govt. to step into a Private Business Area where they have no fact, going off a story from the WSJ as gospel without proof of backup and heeding full force and head-on blinded into something they think they fully believe is factual.

    No Way, We believed another person like that before and allot of good American’s got killed cause someone believed in something that was told as truth and out Government was the one that said it Mike.

    I Am Done with People Like You Mike.

  3. Mike

    If you would have spent some time reading the article instead of trying to defend some one sided argument you would have seen that it is a problem that falls on the developers that have found a way around Both Android and Apples API’s

    I gave information on one of the way’s by how the developers could be circumventing Apples API’s and also Androids.

    You come up with some around the corner rant on how I may feel if my credit card or pictures are stolen. I am so glad you are a clairvoyant and can feel my emotions from this long distance that we are apart i say Thank You but you are Wrong.

    Next use a protected Credit Card, Yes, and most people should but they don’t, You may get one at your Bank for a small modest fee, use it only for online transaction and it is linked to Just iPhones, iPads, if anything happens the card is insured, You Kill the card no loss and a new card is issued in less the 24 hours.

    As for Photos use Digital Online Protected Mobile Account and Never Ever Ever go any further then that.

    Mike You Need to Be Smart, But you just had to many excuses and don’t take that as a insult, but you fired back quickly to my post as such.

    Have a great day.

  4. @ Scott B

    Thanks for the heads-up on obtaining a protected credit card. I had no idea they existed and that’s one thing I’ll definitely look into as I loathe giving out card #s over the internet. Even when Safari says “safe” I know it’s mostly an illusion engineered to make me feel that way. Vulnerability is always but a hacker or malicious PC virus away.

  5. The free versions of TextPlus and PaperToss are both ad based.

    I guess they need to somehow target the ads based on usage in these two apps and that’s why the ID is sent over.

    For other apps it will be the location that is sent over so that they can send ads that make most sense for the user.

    In the iPod touch/iPhone there’s a way to turn off location services on a per app bases. Not sure whether the free apps will still work if you turn off location service for the app.

  6. @Scott B. Did YOU read the entire article? You say Apple will pull these apps, yet iAd is guilty too. That’s Apple!

    I don’t like it one bit. I have an iPad and iPod Touch, along with my EVO (Android) for my phone. I’ve removed all the apps that I had installed that were named in the article. If I find out later that they’ve reformed their identity usage I’ll reinstall. I was especially disturbed that the developer of “Paper Toss” didn’t respond to the WSJ inquiry.

    If you’ve ever had personal info stolen from you then you might find yourself being a little more concerned about this. As for me, I hope Apple and Google do what they can to help control this, including ensuring they aren’t part of the problem!

  7. The Business Insider website laughed at this article and to some extent, you should too. It’s click-whiting, if not an attempt to short Apple stock.

    Because your iPhone is connected to the Internet, information that is important for many apps tongunction correctly, not to mention provide functionality that you request, such as showing your location on a map, or showing you the closest Starbucks to your location, all require that data about you be shared. If you want specific information that must be pulled from the Internet through an app, that’s a fact of life.

  8. to “@Mike” and Scott B.:

    I’m not arguing against you. I’m pointing out the horrid lack of consumer privacy protection that all companies are abusing, including Apple.

    but if you want to be testy … reading comprehension? That’s how you want to attack me? Okay, let’s play that game. I read:

    “iPhone maker Apple Inc. says it reviews each app before offering it to users. Both Apple and Google say they protect users by requiring apps to obtain permission before revealing certain kinds of information, such as location.

    ‘We have created strong privacy protections for our customers, especially regarding location-based data,’ says Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr. ‘Privacy and trust are vitally important.’ “

    “The main companies setting ground rules for app data-gathering have big stakes in the ad business. The two most popular platforms for new U.S. smartphones are Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android. Google and Apple also run the two biggest services, by revenue, for putting ads on mobile phones.”

    In other words, BOTH Apple AND some/many/most of its App developers take private data in some unknown amount to boost their ad revenues. Total lack of transparency, and therefore totally untrustworthy. I don’t place my personal data in the hands of Apple any more than I do Microsoft or the US Government.

    To “@mike” – you do realize that we the people established the government to protect our interests, not for the enhanced profitability of multinational corporations? A nation of laws must remain more powerful — by wielding the power of the people – than the legal constructs, these huge business entities that have no national interests or care of the individual in mind. The fact that some people have bought into the marketing propaganda that for-profit companies will do no evil and that nonprofit governments that should be beholden to the people are evil is beyond me.

  9. @mike, @Mike, @Scott B., and probably others:

    I thought that posting messages with multiple user names is reason enough to delete all your messages, as stated by the MDN rules. MDN moderator, do your job.

    P.S. your habit of capitalizing the first letter of some words is more annoying than shouting with fully capitalized words.

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