Is That Mobile Application Invading My Privacy?

Facebook now offers “Home.” Facebook says “With Home, everything on your phone gets friendlier. From the moment you turn it on, you see a steady stream of friends’ posts and photos. Upfront notifications and quick access to your essentials mean you’ll never miss a moment. And you can keep chatting with friends, even when you’re using other apps. Cover feed puts the spotlight on whatever friends are sharing now—photos, status updates, links and more.”

CNN reports “Built-in GPS technology means smartphones know where a person is at any given time. Phones with Facebook Home could access this information at any time to determine what businesses or neighborhoods you visit the most or even where you live. That data could then be used to serve up a more personalized ad, such as a coupon for a store you’re near or coffee shop you visit every Sunday. A Facebook representative told CNN that Home will not actively track users’ GPS location.”

Back in 2010, The Wall Street Journal was already warning us about app developers’ lack of transparency with regard to their intentions:

An examination of 101 popular smartphone “apps”—games and other software applications for iPhone and Android phones—showed that 56 transmitted the phone’s unique device ID to other companies without users’ awareness or consent. Forty-seven apps transmitted the phone’s location in some way. Five sent age, gender and other personal details to outsiders. The findings reveal the intrusive effort by online-tracking companies to gather personal data about people in order to flesh out detailed dossiers on them.28

One developer of online ads and mobile apps acknowledged, “We watch what apps you download, how frequently you use them, how much time you spend on them, how deep into the app you go.”

And since then, our level of engagement with mobile apps has only increased, while no meaningful steps have been taken to prevent applications’ access to your data. The motivation here is money. The more they know about you, the more targeted ads they can deliver, and the more likely you are to buy. The information also can be abused for identity theft and other malicious purposes.

Facebook Home may have the best intentions and could very well be a great addition for any heavy Facebook user. And keep in mind, every application you install wants more access to who/what/where/when about you so they can send you targeted ads.

Robert Siciliano, is a personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto and author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! . Disclosures