Are Your App’s Watching You?

Are Your App's Watching You?

Do you ever wonder why you are getting a large amount of advertising text messages or marketing calls on your phone, even though neither your email or phone number are commonly known?

As Smartphones increase their functionality, the separation between them and personal computers is starting to blur.  Along with this so is your privacy.

Recent independent investigations have revealed that over 100 popular Smartphone applications (Games and Software) are transmitting detailed information about users to third parties without the knowledge or consent of the owner/user.

Depending on the application being used, the following minimal information (if known) may be transmitted to ad-networks, or other unknown third parties:

  • The phones unique ID.

  • The physical location of the phone (GPS coordinates).

  • The Zip Code of the Phones owner.

  • The Age and Gender of the phones owner.

  • Income

  • Ethnicity

  • Sexual Orientation.

  • Political Views

  • The phones camera type and images.

  • Memory

  • Contact List

  • How long you are installed applications on your phone.  This includes time of day and length of time.

With few exceptions, users can't opt out of phone tracking.  Smartphones, unlike computers, do not have a tracking system like computers do for tracking "cookies", so there is essentially no way for a users to turn off the tracking once an app is installed.  Also, your phone ID actually acts as it's own "Super Cookie" and it can't be blocked or deleted.

Another issue area with privacy is with the users themselves.  Like  computer software usage licensing, and web site privacy notifications, most people simply don't read them, simply clicking o.k. at a prompt during the installation.

Apple indicates that IPhone app's cannot transmit data about a user without obtaining a users permission and providing information about how and where the data will be used. 

Google requires that Android phones notify a user before they download an app as to what specific data sources the app intends to access.  So at least in this instance, a user has the option to abort downloading
the app.

In regards to privacy policy enforcement, it has been found that many of these applications are actually violating the phone service providers privacy policies, and that for the most part, there are no enforcement policies in place.  However, this situation is likely to change over time, as consumers demand that both  phone privacy and security services be ratcheted-up.

For the time being, what this means is that the end-user needs to exercise control (as much as they are allowed over each application) at point of installation.

If you have additional questions concerning application security for either your Smartphone or you computer systems, please contact the CCS Retail Systems Support Department.

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