New Norton Mobile Security warns of privacy problems

Is there a mobile privacy crisis? Symantec thinks so and has added features to Norton Mobile Security to save you from it.

Research by Symantec shows that users value privacy highly, but constantly surrender it, knowingly and unknowingly, when they install apps on mobile devices, particularly free apps.

The company has used its Norton Mobile Insight tool to find when apps obtain PII (personally identifiable information, such as a phone number) and what the apps do with it. Symantec says they have collected about 15 million Android apps from app stores worldwide.

Now Norton Mobile Security warns users in detail about these potential problems as they browse the app in the app store. These techniques used by Norton Mobile Security are not permitted on iOS or Windows Phone, although the company does sell a version for iOS with more limited functionality.

Norton Mobile Security overlays warnings and information onto Google Play app entries. Image courtesy Symantec

Almost a third of apps tested leak SIM card information such as address book details, mobile PIN numbers and call history. About 13 percent of them send a user's phone number off the device.

Symantec's research indicates that users are unaware of the compromises they make when they accept permissions requests from apps, even though they think they do understand them. Users reported enjoying playing games, listening to music and watching videos. Norton Mobile Insight concludes that these types of apps have the highest incidence and severity of privacy infringements.

Symantec surveyed more than 6,000 people in nine markets worldwide. The full report is available here.