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Report claims smartphone apps routinely upload private data

WSJ says ‘your apps are watching you’

A Wall Street Journal report has claimed that iPhone and Android applications are systematically breaching the privacy of smartphone users.

The WSJ cited US Internet radio app Pandora as among the worst of the bunch, revealing that the iPhone app sent information to a total of eight advertising network ‘trackers’ which included sending location data to seven of those.

The application uploaded a unique phone id number to three and ‘demographic data’ to two of the networks. The WSJ report wasn’t clear about whether the networks belonged to the author of the application or advertising networks.

Makers of so-called ‘leaky’ applications TexsPlus 4, Pandora and Grindr told the WSJ that the data that was sent was anonymous while the demographic material alleged to have been sent was apparently volunteered by users of the application.

Business Insider greeted the report with scepticism, saying “Ad networks and analytics software take anonymous data and use it to perform targeting or find out how you use your device.”

“They work very hard to keep that data secure and anonymous. Targeting and analytics have been online for fifteen years now and it doesn’t seem to have hurt anybody.”

However the WSJ did highlight the fact that smartphone applications routinely did not provide privacy policies either on the web sites or inside the applications. The report also appeared to suggest that Google and Apple should require smartphone app developers to do so.

The WSJ also tested the firm’s own iPhone application, noting that it “didn’t send information to outsiders.”

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