Free Apps Are Spying On Users

Robert Heinlein once wrote that there was no such thing as a free lunch. There’s also no such thing as a free mobile app – they all come at a cost. With the latter, that cost is your privacy. Here’s ComputerWorldWeekly on the a new study that claims free mobile apps are a threat to privacy:

Free mobile applications are 401% more likely to track user location and 314% more likely to access user address books than paid-for apps, according to research from Juniper Networks. Many apps analysed had permission to access the internet, which could provide a means for exposed data to be transmitted from the device.

Analysis of 1.7 million apps on the Android market by Juniper’s Mobile Threat Center also found that many apps solicit personal information or perform functions not required for the apps to work. For example, the study found that 94% of free gambling apps that have permission to make outbound calls do not describe why the app would justifiably use this capability.

Similarly, 83.88% of free gambling apps have permission to use the camera and 84.51% have permission to send SMS messages…

…it seems there is no such thing as a free lunch in mobile. If people choose to use free applications, they will likely need to provide information in exchange. Often, the value provided by the app is well worth the information given up by a user; however, many do not realise that this tracking is happening and may not be making informed choices. Communicating why information is needed in a concise and easy-to-understand manner could help people become more comfortable with sharing.

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