Findings Reveal iPhone, Android, IPad Apps Intrude Personal Data

Bob Styran, IT audit expert
December 28, 2010 /

Cases of personal data being transferred to third-parties by applications in iPhone, Android, and iPad have alarmed users.

The Wall Street Journal has found out that smartphone applications in iPhone and Android could transmit a user’s age, gender, location, other personal information and the mobile device’s unique ID to advertising companies. Of the 101 popular smartphone applications for iPhone and Android phones tested, 56 transmitted information about the mobile device’s unique ID to ad companies, 47 transmitted location of the phone, while 5 transmitted the users’ gender and age to third-parties, all without the users knowing the data breach.

Among the iPhone and Android applications that have been found active in sending personal data to ad companies were TextPlus 4, an iPhone text messaging application that sent the phone’s zip code and unique device ID to third parties; Pandora, a music application in iPhone and Android that transmitted the users’ age, gender, location, and phone identifiers to third parties; Paper Toss, a game application in iPhone and Android that sent the phone’s ID number to third parties; Grindr, an iPhone application that transmitted gender, location, and phone ID to ad companies; and Pumpkin Maker, an iPhone game application that sent location of the phone to a third party.

In California, iPhone and iPad users have filed a lawsuit against Apple Inc. for the data breach that these applications have been alleged to permit, including Weather Channel, and Talking Tom Cat.

The lawsuit demanded for a ban to the unauthorized transmission of the users’ personal information from their iPhone and iPad devices to third parties, in addition to monetary compensations that the complainants sought from Apple. It added that Apple did not implement its revised developer agreement due to the pressure it received from ad companies that are using the transmitted data from iPhone and iPad to track down activities of users in the internet.

However, developers of TextPlus 4, Pandora and Grindr said the transmitted data did not contain information about the users’ name, adding that their age and gender were voluntarily provided. Pumpkin maker developer also defended his side, saying he has no knowledge that Apple has required user’s approval before an application could transmit location information.


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