Apps are leaking private information

Apps passing user information to third parties without seeking permission, according to investigation

Stewart Mitchell
20 Dec 2010

Apps on iPhones and Android routinely access and share user information without permission, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper studied 101 apps across both platforms and found that more than half of them transmitted some form of information from the device without the user's knowledge or consent.

According to the research, 56 apps transmitted the handset's unique device number to third-party companies, 47 apps transmitted the phone's location, and five leaked age, gender and other personal details.

As an example, the report showed that US-based music site Pandora sent user information to eight tracking companies, with location data passed to seven of them, the unique phone identity to three, demographic data to two.

The report also highlighted the fact that nearly half of apps didn't offer a written privacy policy that laid out how the app used customer information.

According to the newspaper, neither Apple nor Android required this basic level of protection as part of the rules to be included in the App Store or Android Market.

The state of affairs flies in the face of end-user expectations, with respondents to a reader survey saying they want notification before such firms pass on their data.

72% of respondents believed that apps should ask every time information was collected and sent, 20% thought an app should issue a warning on installation, while 7% were only concerned if the information was being sent to third parties.

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