The cost of being social; which apps upload your contacts

The cost of being social; which apps upload your contacts

Summary: A list of who's naughty and who's nice when it comes to uploading your iOS address book.

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Apple looks the other way while developers to pilfer your iPhone contacts, but is committed to righting its wrong in a future software release. This much we know.

Wonderful, but what about right now? Are we supposed to stop using social media apps while Apple figures out its next step? Should developers be allowed to police themselves?

But it's not just Path and Twitter (which keeps your address book on file for 18 months). It turns out that most of the top social apps upload your contacts to their servers, but some are better than others.

The Verge did some digging and made a list of what the various social apps do with your address book data. Until Apple steps in to sort this whole mess out, each developer decides how it deals with your contact data.

Here's a cheat sheet:

  • Twitter - Uploads your address book, but you have to click "scan your contacts"
  • Facebook - Uploads your address book, but you have to click "scan your address book"
  • LinkedIn - Uploads your address book, but you have to click "scan your address book"
  • Path - After lots of public scorn deleted its database and is now opt-in
  • Instagram - Followed Path and switched to opt-in
  • Hipster - Uses HTTPS, added opt-in
  • FoursquarePop-up notification, does not store your data
  • Gowalla - Uploads email addresses after tapping "Find Friends" and "Address Book" but doesn't disclose that it's uploading
  • Foodspotting - When you touch "Follow People" it uploads your entire email list in clear text to an insecure HTTP address. Planning an update.
  • Instapaper - One of the best. Developer Marco Arment is completely transparent about his security and data retention policy

Surprisingly, The Verge notes that several apps you'd expect to be uploading your contact data didn't, at least in its testing. Honorable mention goes to:

  • Pinterest
  • Skype
  • Flipboard
  • Shazam
  • Pandora
  • Rdio
  • Meebo
  • Netflix
  • Google+
  • Skype
  • TripIt
  • Color

Call me paranoid, but I'll definitely be spending a lot more time on my Droid 4, at least until Apple issues iOS 5.0.2. Which apps did I miss? Post them (and their AB upload policy) in the TalkBack below.

Image: The "Conversation Prism" by Brian Solis of the PR 2.0 blog.

Update: Here's a subset of Apple's App Store Essentials in the Social Networking category:

App Store Essentials - Social Networking - Jason O'Grady

Topics: Apple, Apps, Legal, Mobile OS, Software Development

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Talkback

15 comments
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  • RE: The cost of being social; which apps upload your contacts

    I'd be interested to see how many of those same apps on the Android platform take user data without their knowledge. I know there is the whole "permissions dialogue" section when the app is first installed but that is rather vague about precisely what information is taken, where it's stored, how long it's stored, etc.
    athynz
    • RE: The cost of being social; which apps upload your contacts

      @Pete "athynz" Athens Most of those apps are also in the Android Market. My response Mr. Grady is, when Apple puts a permission system in place will you go back to using those apps even if they still copy your address book etc (but now with your permission)?
      khurtwilliams@...
    • RE: The cost of being social; which apps upload your contacts

      This entire article focuses on Apple fixing iOS, and completely disregards the ignorance and stupidity of users and the audacity of developers. Here's what we ALL should do... STOP USING Apps that violate our privacy. If people deleted and stopped using Apps that steal your information without your consent then developers would stop creating apps that steal your information.

      It's really that simple, by "waiting for Apple to fix iOS" you're telling developers it's OK to steal more and more data from our phones, computers, tablets etc. People are too complacent to do anything about it, that's why our Government is no longer of, for and by the people, and has become of, for and by lobbyist.
      Masari.Jones
  • RE: The cost of being social; which apps upload your contacts

    These developers should be convicted of theft (or trespass for not sticking to their own data on your device) if they upload anything of yours without your permission. They'd certainly be done if they walked into your home and took something of yours without permission.
    deaf_e_kate
  • RE: The cost of being social; which apps upload your contacts

    I have banned all Apple devices from connecting to my company network. This is unbelievable, inexcusable, and unforgivable.
    lippidp
  • RE: The cost of being social; which apps upload your contacts

    Voxer Walkie-Talkie does this as well. I was stunned when suddenly Voxer started to tell me who in my address book had also installed Voxer. I had not touched any settings for Voxer so they just did it. Perhaps it was in the user agreement...<br>I've since removed it, but, I assume my address book is still sitting on the Voxer servers, with no way to remove it...
    bgrh
  • RE: The cost of being social; which apps upload your contacts

    Is this only an issue with iOS devices? The option to scan your address book also exists on the web sites of Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. And what about Android? Did these app developers not implement the same functionality on that platform? Seems likely to me that they did. If so, Apple should be congratulated for being the first to do something positive about it.
    mkcdavies
  • RE: The cost of being social; which apps upload your contacts

    neighbor's step-sister made $15111 the previous month. she is making income on the computer and got a 468000 dollar house. All she did was get lucky and set to work the directions revealed on this web page NuttyRich.c o m
    pansyneal
  • RE: The cost of being social; which apps upload your contacts

    But my thing is as some of you are pointing out {what is going to happen to the people and company's that have done this} since it is theft and is core!!
    bsmi021@...
  • RE: The cost of being social; which apps upload your contacts

    There is an easy way to punish the rogue developers: go to the iTunes store for each app and make it clear, in the comments section, that the app steals user data and give it a low mark. Developers can't remove these remarks. Naming and shaming in the iTunes store is likely to be the kiss of death for the app.
    mainvision
  • RE: The cost of being social; which apps upload your contacts

    Why does Skype get 2 Honorable Mentions? ;)
    ggraysonlvlv
    • Twice As Good

      @ggraysonlvlv---Skype will tell you it's because they're twice as good! lol
      PreachJohn
  • Take Over Mentality/Android Apps

    Some Blogger should make like they're installing various popular Android Apps. Fodder for a blockbuster article perhaps. Click the More button too. You may be astounded at the 'take over your phone completely' trade offs required to install many apps.
    You may be astounded; I blanche and cringe at the privacy trade offs required to install most/many apps.
    It's time that the Lid is blown off the endemic 'take over your phone/computer' mentality of entitlement that is so rife as standard practice in the cyber world.
    PreachJohn
    • RE: The cost of being social; which apps upload your contacts

      +1
      inmarket
  • RE: The cost of being social; which apps upload your contacts

    One more thing...as pointed out in another article recently, even Google Maps demands the permission not only to read your location (reasonable for an app which gives directions to where you want to go), but also to ACCESS AND CHANGE your data. Why does a mapping app need access to your address book?
    The answer may be to stop using all the apps, but are any of us really willing to go back and read the EULA's for every single app we ever downloaded? If we are not willing to bite that bullet and stop using all such apps, the developers will have no incentive to stop the invasion of privacy.
    litninrod@...