The Wall Street Journal recently published an article asserting that many popular smartphone apps for iOS and Android are collecting information about users and sending that information to advertisers without prompting the user. Some examples of personal information that is being sent out to advertisers include age, gender, location, and unique device identifiers.
Possibly the most telling piece of information that can be collected from our phones is the device ID which every smartphone has inside and is permanently associated with the specific unit.
Some of the Android apps which The Wall Street Journal pointed out specifically in their article included the DailyHoroscope, Pandora Radio, and MySpace apps. Angry Birds on iOS was tested and also singled out for sending user information, but no mention was made of the Android version of the app.
Earlier this year, there was a scare about an app which purposely mislead users to download it. Apparently, the app was only used for research purposes, and did not have the permissions to collect personal data. Google removed the app from the Android Market, and there was plenty of coverage of the event, with many sites stressing that users increase their awareness on what security permissions they allow for apps they install.
This latest situation is different, in that personal information is being gathered from handsets without prompt, and likely being sold to advertising companies. However, these kinds of practices are not necessarily new to consumers as a whole. Tracking cookies do similar things to many of the apps discussed.
Engadget reminds their readers that the collected "data is typically processed in batches and anonymized so that advertisers can't necessarily separate you from the crowd." However, those personal device IDs are still a big concern, as those IDs stay with the device and can provide lots of insight into what users have done with their device.
I'm sure this latest story is just the tip of the iceberg, and that we can expect more concern from consumers about who is obtaining their personal information, and where it goes.
Image from Android Central