Apps on your phone putting your privacy at risk?

Apps on your phone putting your privacy at risk?

Summary: Do you know what information is being sent through the air from your phone? According to research doen by Lookout Inc, a quarter of free iPhone apps, and half of free Android apps contain code that deliberately collects sensitive information from users.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Legal, Apps, Mobility, Telcos
18

Do you know what information is being sent through the air from your phone? According to research doen by Lookout Inc, a quarter of free iPhone apps, and half of free Android apps contain code that deliberately collects sensitive information from users. Unfortunately Apple's review process, and of course Google's lack of one, have not yet been effective in combating this potentially serious problem.

iPhone tells users when an app wants to see location information about a user, while Android has a pretty detailed list of warnings that users will see when they try to download an application. The problem, however, is that regardless of requested permissions, users generally choose to use an application anyway.

When asked for comment, Google said it "tries to limit users' risk with the warnings but consistently advises users to only install apps they trust". Apple had no comment.

When there is a problem, like users' privacy being at risk, creative solutions tend to crop up. It will be interesting to see what those solutions are, and who they will come from.

Topics: Legal, Apps, Mobility, Telcos

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

18 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I was sent a free Android device...

    ..at work to test out a mobile product that a vendor of our wants us to buy. While playing around with it, I installed a free Pinball game and noticed that it required access to my "phone call logs" (or "phone calls" - can't remember exactly what it said). Either way it seemed a but strange.
    toadlife
    • That's not a problem...

      @toadlife If its the app I'm thinking of, it wanted permissions for phone call state. That means it knows when a call comes in the game can pause before its cut off. That permission is used a lot in games.
      superlinkx
      • RE: Apps on your phone putting your privacy at risk?

        @superlinkx Very great job. :) Thank you! <a href="http://www.rolexwatchesuk.co.uk">replica watch uk</a> <a href="http://www.rolexwatchesuk.co.uk">watches replica</a> <a href="http://www.rolexwatchesuk.co.uk">rolex replica uk</a>
        3shao
    • RE: Apps on your phone putting your privacy at risk?

      @toadlife
      It IS strange. Android provides information, but not enough of it. For instance, I'm about to update a scanner application right now, and it needs access to my location (Why?), the ability to prevent the phone from sleeping (Understand that), phone calls (Why?), phone state (Why?) and some other things I couldn't remember.

      Frankly, I trust the app based on reviews from more knowledgeable people. If I didn't have access to information like that, though, I would never even have a smartphone. What's needed is not just what information the app has access to, but what it does with it and why. Why does a radio scanner need GPS data? Why does it need to make phone calls? Does it actually make a call? If it does, who to?

      Also, it is the application itself that needs access, or the application's installer that needs it?

      Those are the things I'd really like to see included. Of course, if it were, the information pages would number a couple dozen...
      clfitz
    • RE: Apps on your phone putting your privacy at risk?

      @toadlife This is so when an incoming call is going through it can interrupt the game to allow you to answer that call. Not at all strange.
      Robert Kunz
  • Just because an app needs information

    that does not mean that information is going to leave your phone (other than via the display or audio output). Why don't we dispense with the unnecessary scare tactics and just talk about the apps that send information out to the world? You start by talking about that but then completely change the subject only the second sentence in.
    Michael Kelly
  • FUD

    of course there is a fundamental difference between iphone apps asking for permission every time they need to access location information to do their intented purpose or rough, unreviewed, uncontrolled android apps that send sensitive user data from android users to servers in china.<br><br>the FUD attempt to claim that iphone users have the same problems as unprotected android users is weak at best.<br><br>android users start to pay for antivirus software on your phone! you'll need it.
    banned from zdnet
    • RE: Apps on your phone putting your privacy at risk?

      @banned from zdnet Wow, sounds like someone doesn't know the first thing about Android. First off, its true that iPhone's are just as vulnerable, even more so since they don't even tell you what permissions that app has access to. Android tells you exactly what the phone can access, so you can take a proactive approach to keeping malware away. With great power comes great responsibility. Android gives the user power, rather than try to keep power away. People just need to use the same sense they use on Windows, Linux and Macs and make sure they trust apps before they install them. You don't just install anything because its available, you install things that you know you can trust. The Apple App Store is making people unable to think about security, because Apple provides this little fantasy of not worrying about security because they "manage" the apps for you. Believe me, one day, everyone's iPhone is going to get pwned by a couple of bad apps and then we'll see who's laughing.
      superlinkx
      • one day

        @superlinkx
        one day maybe. who knows. but maybe one day is better than now and today your data being sent to servers in china.
        banned from zdnet
    • RE: Apps on your phone putting your privacy at risk?

      @banned from zdnet You are joking right?? you really do not believe that BS from Apple do you?? Oh wait of course you do, you have one of those magical iPhonies.
      mmyers1
      • RE: Apps on your phone putting your privacy at risk?

        @mmyers@... Why wouldn't he believe it? Apple would cop anything first before it's released to the public and who controls Android app? Torrents are pretty safe aye.....?
        andjoh
  • Knowing Google though

    All of your information is being sent through the air...
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Apps on your phone putting your privacy at risk?

      @NStalnecker but do you or the average person have the ability to read them??
      mmyers1
  • Android Apps arent the issue

    This is peanuts in comparison to what Google is taking from every user on Gmail or even the paid Apps version. Using paid version, turn ads on in Gmail. Enjoy the contextual Ads immediately. That's b/c you are jsut saying 'show them now' they are still scanning and profiling your buseinss use regardless of your decision to see ads or not.
    mcleutz
    • RE: Apps on your phone putting your privacy at risk?

      @mcleutz <br><br>God forbid you should have to look at an ad for something you might actually buy rather than have to look at an ad for something you'd never buy...<br><br>As you can probably tell, I never quite understood what people have against target advertising and how that gets translated into a loss of privacy. As long as Google does not share/sell your specific personal information to somebody else I do not see what the problem is. If you've ordered anything by mail in the last fifty years you've had the same exact thing done to you, it just hasn't been as obvious that it was happening, and it's likely that some of those companies actually HAVE shared/sold your information to somebody else. In fact it's in Google's best interest to make sure they are the only ones who know your private information and that you remain nothing more than a statistic rather than a specific person with specific information. And if THAT bothers you so much, then I suggest you move to a cabin in the woods and only purchase goods from the local mercantile in cash, because that's the only way you can prevent this sort of thing from happening to you, whether you eschew Google or not.
      Michael Kelly
  • RE: Apps on your phone putting your privacy at risk?

    Anybody who thinks that the phone companies don't know your location is sadly mistaken. Does not matter whether or not you have GPS on your phone or not, whether or not you have apps on your phone or not, and whether or not you give them permission to know this information or not. As soon as your phone is turned on your phone will connect to a cell tower if it is in range and then they know who you are and where you are.
    mmyers1
  • RE: Apps on your phone putting your privacy at risk?

    Collecting personal information from the device or sending data to malware sites can be controlled or protected if App Stores provide Security Checked Apps to their users.
    -Rajesh
    rajesh.rdn1
  • RE: Apps on your phone putting your privacy at risk?

    There is a big difference between getting basic information such as location and sending personal information to malware servers. Try writing something about the states based on the two different issues rather than a blanket headline about your phone putting your privacy at risk with pretty much no details.
    non-biased