Smartphone Apps Keeps Tabs On Users
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iPhones and Androids are too smart for their own good, tracking user habits for advertising purposes.This personal data is shared “widely and regularly,” according to a Wall Street Journal investigation into 101 widely used Smartphone apps, which showed that over half transmitted the phone’s unique device ID to other companies without users’ awareness.

There are currently over 300,000 apps available on the iPhone since their launch two years ago, and around 100,000 on Google’s Android system, with new additions coming on-stream at an ever increasing rate.

The very first dedicated Apps Store for Mac computers is also set to open its doors in January 2011.  

A total of forty-seven apps tested transmitted the phone’s location while five communicated personal details to online companies eager to attain such information to tailor online ads to appeal to their (pre-determined) preferences.

The iPhone apps came out on top as the biggest information give away culprits, although both Apple and  Google continuously denies it engages in such practices.

“We have created strong privacy protections for our customers, especially regarding location-based data,” says Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr.

“Privacy and trust are vitally important,” he claims.

Eighteen of the 51 iPhone apps tested sent information back to Apple.

 

The iPhone’s TextPlus 4, through which it operates its texting system, was revealed to be a major feeder of information to outsiders.

Other culprits include the Angry Birds game and music software Shazam, which come inbuilt on the iPhone.

Its is a very lucrative industry, behavioural ads accounting for $ 12.1 billion for just the first half of 2010 alone and Google predicts its display ad market to be worth a phenomenal $50 billion in four years time.

According to official statistics released last April, over 1.5 million Australians owned whether an iPhone, iTouch or iPad and this was prior to the July release of the iPhone 4, meaning this figure is probably closer to 2 million currently.

Less than half of the apps tested by the WSJ had privacy policies of any kind.

Last week, SmartHouse reported how the US government is to debate if creating laws to develop a “Do Not Track Me” mechanism is needed to protect consumer’s privacy online.

Microsoft are already  planning to launch to a new version of their Internet Explorer 9 browser, allowing browsers to elude online tracking by companies who use this information to sell to advertisers.

“We believe that the combination of consumer opt-in, an open platform for publishing of Tracking Protection Lists (TPLs), and the underlying technology mechanism for Tracking Protection offer new options and a good balance between empowering consumers and online industry needs,” Microsoft said.

The beauty of Smartphones for the ad makers is that unlike a PC, users cannot disable cookies.

 

Google, probably the biggest oogler in the world, is aware of user’s complete cache of online activities, especially since the level of tasks that can be completed online has soared.

They also the biggest online advertising network in the world, as do Apple with its iAd network.

Everything from searches, phone calls, web chats, emails (Gmail) what you are buying, and its eponymous Maps that takes images of your house and can monitor every movement, coupled with recent revelations on how Google Street views were tracking information from home Wi-Fi networks.

In other words, big brother eat your heart out.