Apple pulls 250+ data-mining iPhone apps from the App Store

The App Store is a slightly emptier place this morning, after Apple culled over 250 iOS apps that were keeping hold of personal data.

Apple pulls 250+ data-mining iPhone apps from the App Store

With over 1.5 million iPhone and iPad apps in the store, it’s unlikely many will mourn the loss of these particular 256, although cumulatively they were said to have been downloaded around a million times. Those who did take the plunge on them may have had personal information uploaded to a private server. An investigation by SourceDNA discovered that the apps were breaking Apple’s rules and uploading information such as Apple ID and device serial numbers.

The apps had one thing in common: they used a software-development kit from Chinese advertiser Youmi. The SDK would allegedly farm the information from app users, without the app developers’ or customers’ knowledge.

We’ve identified a group of apps that are using a third-party advertising SDK, developed by Youmi, a mobile advertising provider, that uses private APIs to gather private information, such as user email addresses and device identifiers, and route data to its company server,” Apple said in a statement.iphone_6s

This is a violation of our security and privacy guidelines. The apps using Youmi’s SDK will be removed from the App Store and any new apps submitted to the App Store using this SDK will be rejected. We are working closely with developers to help them get updated versions of their apps that are safe for customers and in compliance with our guidelines back in the App Store quickly.”

Researchers from SourceDNA state that although the 256 apps identified have been squashed, it’s entirely possible that other published apps could contain similar APIs that managed to evade detection in Apple’s app review process.

To date, neither SourceDNA nor Apple have revealed which apps were affected, but given that Youmi is a Chinese advertiser, it’s believed that the majority of them will be Chinese.

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Images: Joseph Thornton and Blake Patterson used under Creative Commons

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