WSJ Report: Mobile Apps Snoop, Sell Personal Data

Dennis Faas's picture

A recent Wall Street Journal report has revealed that some popular mobile apps have been sending personal data of their users to third parties without consent. A whopping 56 applications using the Apple iPhone and Google Android systems were found guilty of such practices.

In a recent statement, Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, was outraged with such activity. Founded in 2009, Big Brother Watch is a British-based group dedicated to combating intrusions of privacy and protecting civil liberties.

Personal Info Breach "Alarming News"

"This is alarming news. Most users of these apps don't know this is happening and many of them wouldn't use the app if they did know." (Source:

Among the most prolific features, music-based Pandora and game-based Paper Toss were among those apps that were responsible for sending phone IDs to a range of ad networks.

Apple Denies, Google Admits Accused Activity

Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr responded to the Wall Street Journal report by stating that Apple has "created strong privacy protections for our customers, especially regarding location-based data."

On the other hand, a Google spokesman admitted that their AdMob service does indeed target ads based on data supplied through apps. In an effort to downplay the deceitfulness of the process, however, the spokesman was mindful to add that "No profile of the user, their device, where they have been or what apps they have downloaded is created or stored." (Source:

Data Mining, Stealing Nothing New

While the news is concerning, the practice (which is then linked to data mining) is by no means new.

Back in August of 2010, a Google Android app used for wallpaper was accused of harvesting personal data stored on smart phones, and then sending that information to a third-party advertising agency. Though this app was considered malware in its form, the data-stealing practices used by legitimate app makers is similar.

Facebook has also been criticized many times over the past year for leaking user information to advertising agencies.

It is unclear whether or not retaliatory actions will be taken against deceitful participants in the wake of this behavior.

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