February 21, 2012
/ by Sukhraj Beasla
People are suddenly starting to realize something…their beloved iPhone apps are stealing their data. They’re outraged, pointing fingers, and the Internet is a buzz with what’s right and what’s wrong and who’s to blame – your apps, Apple, or Steve Jobs. And are you really surprised?
The situation first came to light when the smart journal app, Path was publicly shamed for uploading users address books and contact info without permission. Since then, they have released a new update and claimed to have deleted all information they collected. However, Path isn’t the only app stealing your data. Other popular apps like Facebook and Instagram steal more than just your contacts; they also take in details like email. Why? So that the process to create a user account is seamless. Let’s face it. We don’t want to bother creating new user accounts just to use an app so we “opt in” and let the app access our Twitter or Facebook info just to create an account for us. We’re just as guilty by allowing the app access to our personal and private data just to save a few seconds.
Unfortunately, there’s no knowing what happens once your data has been accessed and uploaded onto the servers of these apps. Most app developers are now taking actions to delete all user data, making updates to their app, or clearly identifying their intentions within the app interface. Foursquare, Angry Birds, and Twitter are good examples of apps that are following iPhone app guidelines in regards to user data. Upon launching these apps, you are first prompted by a screen that asks you to either opt in or out of loading your contact info.
However, if you’re still cautious about the data being transmitted by your iPhone apps, you might want to install a program on your computer called mitmproxy. This device will scan your phone and tell you what apps are offending data violations and what data is being used. However, just be aware that once they have your info, they have it for good. What can you do to prevent it? Probably nothing or just be careful with what apps you decide to use. Since the public fiasco of Path, most apps have made updates so this really shouldn’t be a concern anymore. You can opt out now when you decide to try out a new app. This should alleviate some concerns for users going forward. The right to make an informed decision about how you use your apps and the data is now up to Apple and app developers.
We want to hear your thoughts. Are you using any of the offending apps? Are you concerned about info being used by these apps?
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