What your apps know about you

This diagram is one of many interactive infographics from the Wall Street Journal, illustrating how many apps are accessing more of your personal data than you may realise.

An examination of 101 popular smartphone “apps”—games and other software applications for iPhone and Android phones—showed that 56 transmitted the phone’s unique device ID to other companies without users’ awareness or consent. Forty-seven apps transmitted the phone’s location in some way. Five sent age, gender and other personal details to outsiders.

The findings reveal the intrusive effort by online-tracking companies to gather personal data about people in order to flesh out detailed dossiers on them.

via Your Apps Are Watching You – online.wsj.com

I can’t imagine it would be hard to put together a simple settings page for users to get full disclosure and complete control over this. I’d like the option to enable or disable each one of these settings in bulk or per app. There should also be space for each app to describe their need to use certain features.

The permissions an app needs should explained clearly upon install, and if an app decides it suddenly needs access to my telephone number or location for no apparent reason, I should be able to uninstall and get a full refund. There are some other obvious areas for improvement:

An examination of 101 popular smartphone “apps”—games and other software applications for iPhone and Android phones—showed that 56 transmitted the phone’s unique device ID to other companies without users’ awareness or consent. Forty-seven apps transmitted the phone’s location in some way. Five sent age, gender and other personal details to outsiders.

The findings reveal the intrusive effort by online-tracking companies to gather personal data about people in order to flesh out detailed dossiers on them.

Neither Apple nor Google requires apps to ask permission to access some forms of the device ID, or to send it to outsiders. When smartphone users let an app see their location, apps generally don’t disclose if they will pass the location to ad companies.

via Your Apps Are Watching You – online.wsj.com

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