Mobile Apps Come With Huge Privacy Loopholes, Little Transparency
Any time Angry Birds or Yelp is opened on a smartphone, information is being sent to marketers -- and app developers aren't required to reveal it. Apps running on the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry platforms often collect personal information to be resold to marketing companies and initiatives such as Google's AdMob. These apps and others work in conjunction with in-phone GPS chips to give marketers detailed information on smartphone users' locations, gender, ages and, in some cases, personal contacts and use of other apps.
...The largest current set of laws relating to online privacy, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, was originally written in 1986 and has large gaps in coverage of web-era and post-web technologies.
Data mining from smartphone apps is endemic: A recent investigative piece in the Wall Street Journal discovered sensitive personal information was being sent to marketers by popular applications such as Angry Birds, Pandora and Yelp. This information often includes users' contacts, geographical location and a mobile phone ID unique to each user.
Mining info from your contacts is really beyond the pale. What's next? Are they going to take your calendar info and track who you're meeting with and when?
(...Adding, government hating Libertarians and the like might take note that this is what happens when you allow businesses to operate completely unregulated.)
for all this so-called convenience and so-called free apps. If anyone out there thinks they are safe from data miners, they are sadly mistaken. I am at a loss to understand why so many people have had their cell phone surgically attached to their ears. Everywhere you look and everywhere you go, someone has a cell phone plastered onto their heads. Not to mention the incredible dumbing down of our society because people are forgetting how to spell and construct a sentence. It is a very sad state of affairs.
Robert Heinlein used this acronym in many of his stories - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.
I always took this acronym to mean that all of our choices have consequences and we should be aware of those consequences. Pretty well anything "free" on the Internet has an indirect cost. This is an example of a privacy cost as opposed to a monetary one.
I use a program called Droidwall that will stop any app you choose from accessing the Internet.. It's a free program and it seems to work well.
I have, among other apps, Angry Birds. If I don't have it "blacklisted" the ad's appear whenever I play the game. Once I put it on the blacklist the ads stop because it can't get online to grab them. I blacklist all apps I that don't need to go online to work. I may not be protected 100% but at least it's something.
Just so you know; blacklisting an app doesn't stop you from updating it. I don't allow any app to auto-update but when I get notification of an update being available I can download and install it even while the actual app is blacklisted.
I want to add that I don't use Droidwall to keep from purchasing ad-free apps. If Angry Birds offered an ad-free paid version I would purchase it, as I have for a large number of other apps. However, I would still blacklist the program, paid or otherwise, if there was no need for that app to go online.
Thanks for the pointer to the Droidwall app. It appears to require a root'ed device - and installing this app is a good rationale for rooting. Source code also appears to be available.
Since my Evo is rooted I don't really remember if that was a requirement. Thanks for mentioning it.
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