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Privacy Concerns With Android and iPhone Apps 116

Posted by timothy
from the wouldn't-exactly-say-I've-been-missing-it dept.
carre4 writes "The Wall Street Journal has come out with an article where they examine 101 popular smartphone apps and show that 56 of them transmit various types of information including unique phone IDs, age, gender, postal codes, and location to ad companies. The article also includes responses from infringing app makers and talks about the pressure that some developers feel to share even more information, like Max Binshtok, creator of the DailyHoroscope for Android, who has been encouraged by ad-network executives to transmit users' locations."
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Privacy Concerns With Android and iPhone Apps

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  • Ugh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alvinrod (889928) on Saturday December 18, 2010 @05:18PM (#34602358)
    Sorry to burst your bubble, but most developers like to eat, which means that commercialization of software comes in at some point, whether that's advertising, support, or something else. Limiting the selection of software to only non-free (as in beer) software would result in a lot less software being available (or made in the future), which isn't exactly helpful for end users either. FOSS has gone a long way to make the world a better place, but it's not a be-all, end-all solution.
  • Re:Powers (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 18, 2010 @05:20PM (#34602366)

    Yeah, you have fun with that crap. I prefer to use the device instead of auditing every packet and process it produces.

  • by icebike (68054) on Saturday December 18, 2010 @05:27PM (#34602400)

    This is actually a good Idea.

    The problem is that giving that level of snooping capability to one app pretty much makes it available for other apps, and you can see how that would get out of hand pretty quickly with one app data mining another and sending back encrypted data later.

    Perhaps a better method would be for Android/IOS to find a way to lock down access to specific items of data in the phone. If you want to deny an app from reading your phone number or IMEI you can just uncheck a box and it can't even call the APIs that do that. You might end up killing off app functionality, but at least you would know when some game decided ti email your addressbook to china or something.

    This pretty well has to be solved at the system level rather than at the level of a watchdog app.

  • Re:Ugh (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 18, 2010 @07:15PM (#34603022)

    Because maybe he agrees that the developers should be fairly paid for their work? Not everyone is a retarded hippie, okay? Knock it off. You're the spineless one if you can't accept that people think differently than you about how software should be available. I personally am perfectly fine with applications that are closed and applications that are open, as long as there aren't inherent problems with the closed software (shady company, obvious lack of maintenance and support, etc.)

  • Re:Laws of reality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Saturday December 18, 2010 @09:50PM (#34604032) Journal

    The problem is, there is no way to know what the information is being used for.

    I've never used Pumpkin Maker and the description doesn't mention anything about it's capabilities. However, suppose I include a "feature" which will display a background depending on the time of day and your location. So if it's after sunset, it will be dark outside. Of course, for me to know if it's sunset, I need to know your location since sunset varies depending on where in the world you are.

    Thus, Pumpkin Maker needs my location. So it comes up and says, "Would you like to allow Pumpkin Maker to access your location?" Makes sense--it needs to know my location so that it can display the appropriate background. Of course, it doesn't mention that while it's showing your appropriate background, it's sharing your location with it's advertisers.

    Gender would be easy to come by--just ask. After all, it's a fun game for kids and we want to identify the kid with the appropriate pronoun. Or we ask for a name and send that off--after all, we want to identify your pumpkin as "Bob's Pumpkin" or "Sally's Pumpkin" initially, right? Then something on the backend figures out that "Bob" tends to be a boy's name and "Sally" tends to be a girl's name. "Pat" will confuse it, of course...

    Age? Again, you could just ask. You have a collection of add-ons for your pumpkin and you want to filter for age-appropriateness. After all, we don't want small children adding pumpkin boobies or penises. That would be sick and wrong and we're a good company that Thinks of the Children.®

    So the game collects all of this information for a good reason but it never says, "Hey, you mind if I ship it off to advertisers?"

    Again, I've never used this App. I don't know much about it. But these are some ways you could get the information.

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