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Android Users Unwittingly Share Private Data Through Free Apps

Viviane Reding condemns advertisers who gain personal data without knowledge or consent of users

An investigation has revealed that certain applications on the Android market can allow advertisers access to personal information without users’ knowledge or consent.

A study into the top 50 free apps, conducted by Channel 4 and MWR InfoSecurity, showed that for many apps, the permissions granted to the developers are also granted to advertisers without explicit user consent.

Unauthorised access

MWR InfoSecurity found code in the apps in question which enabled sharing of such information such as call details, text messages, location and contacts lists. The code was traced back to MobClix, a US advertising network.

“This really concerns me, and this is against the law because nobody has the right to get your personal data without you agreeing to this,” said the European Commission vice-president, Viviane Reding to Channel 4. “Maybe you want somebody to get this data and agree and it’s fine. You’re an adult and you can do whatever you want. But normally you have no idea what others are doing with your data.

“They are spotting you, they are following you, they are getting information about your friends, about your whereabouts about your preferences.”

Google has already come under fire from Reding over its new privacy policy, and this latest Android market revelation could further dent the search giant’s reputation. Though the company advises developers to follow best practises regarding consumer data, the marketplace is not screened to prevent such breaches in privacy.

Apple also came under scrutiny regarding app privacy recently when it was found that developers could potentially gain access to a user’s entire photo gallery and location data. It is thought that the introduction of full photo access permissions in iOS 4 created the issue.

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