Your Smartphone App May be Watching You: Report

Dennis Faas's picture

Computer users aren't the only ones who need to worry about their privacy and security. A new report from San Francisco-based Lookout Inc., a mobile phone security firm, reveals that smart phone applications may be closely monitoring users and relaying that information to others. (Source:

Personal Data Secretly Transmitted to Third Parties

Nearly 300,000 free applications for Apple's iPhone and phones built around Google's Android software were scanned by Lookout, Inc. Results of those scans found that many of those apps were secretly pulling sensitive data off user phones and sending them off to third parties without notification.

Data being transmitted to third parties -- which can include advertisers and companies that analyze data on users -- may include every detail about a users' contacts, pictures, text messages, and Internet and search histories.

The third party companies used the data from smart phone users to target ads and to learn more about their users. This is referred to as data mining.

Mined Data Susceptible to Hackers, ID Theft

Lookout Inc's. findings were released at the Black Hat computer security conference recently held in Las Vegas.

The study found that nearly a quarter of iPhone apps and half of Android apps had software with data collection capabilities. While the information is meant to learn more about user behavior, the danger is that the data is also vulnerable to hacking and could be used to propagate identity theft if the information is not secure. (Source:

Users, Developers Unaware of Data Smart Phones Collect

Lookout's findings revealed that neither users nor the developers of the software knew what was happening in their apps. Smart phones don't alert users that they are collecting all kinds of different information.

iPhones will only alert a user when an application wants to use their locations. Android phones offer the user a warning when the applications are being installed, but, as with other software End User License Agreements, many people install them without paying attention to the fine print.

Apple and Google did not respond to requests for comment on Lookout's research. (Source:

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