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European Commission VP: Android apps violating privacy laws

updated 09:15 am EST, Mon March 5, 2012

European Commission says Android leaking data

European Commission VP Viviane Reding hinted Android app developers and possibly Google itself might be in legal trouble over app data access. Reacting to a report by the UK's Channel 4 where many top-50 Android apps were allegedly scraping personal data and passing it on to ad suppliers, Reding believed it was "against the law" by accessing data without consent. To her, it was a deceptive practice that could demand a forced change.

"Nobody has the right to get your personal data without you agreeing to this," she said. "Maybe you want somebody to get this data and agree and it's fine. You're an adult and you can do whatever you want. But normally you have no idea what others are doing with your data. They are spotting you, they are following you, they are getting information about your friends, about your whereabouts, about your preferences. That is certainly not what you thought you bought into when you downloaded a free of charge app. That's exactly what we have to change."

The British station had tapped a third-party firm, MWR Infosecurity, to check what top Android apps were sending. Its results showed "a lot" of the free apps' advertisers were using permission granted to the app to scrape similar information for themselves, including calendars, contacts and GPS data. At least MobClix's ad network was blaed for the apparent intrusion.

Google hasn't responded to the accusations. Android's creator has regularly been keen to tout the permission notices ahead of an app install as catching any possible use cases, but the policy doesn't account for what might go to advertisers or other third parties who may be strictly incidental to the app.

Apple has normally had tighter control over what apps are allowed to access, and while apps have had access to contacts, it's not believed that has extended to apps as well. It so far plans to close any unrequested contact sharing through an update, while Google isn't yet known to be changing Android. [via Pocket-lint]

By Electronista Staff


  1. hayesk

    Professional Poster

    Joined: Sep 1999



    I always wondered what happened to Blanche from the Golden Girls.

  1. erics

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2010


    What new is old..

    Wow its starting to smell like the old Windows world again :)

  1. Lifeisabeach

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2010


    Classic Electronista proofreading

    "…and while apps have had access to contacts, it's not believed that has extended to apps as well."

  1. gprovida

    Junior Member

    Joined: Feb 2006


    Hear! Hear!

    I wish our congress was as concerned about privacy. Today its at best opt out and assumes somehow you know you have been opted in.. When I tried to do not track web site it failed to work for me. I applaud European Commission and Apple's efforts to allow me to regain control over my privacy. Hopefully, the money being pushed at Congress be overcome at least by embarrassment. Occasional Congressional action on location services or photos is great publicity but barely scratches the surface of what is needed. If businesses want my data whether magazines, online sales, apps, site visits, etc. then ask!

    Comment buried. Show
  1. DerekMorr

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2010


    more Android bashing

    Shocker, electronista ran a one-sided hit piece. The "article" essentially ignored the numerous privacy concerns with iOS apps. Regarding the last sentence, there's no need for Google to update Android, as Android has a robust app permission system. Every app that access contact or calendar information has to explicitly declare that it does so, unlike iOS apps.

  1. Jeronimo2000

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001



    "... ignored the numerous privacy concerns with iOS apps..."

    Numerous? Oh please enlighten me. I know of the one with "Path", where they took the iOS address book and uploaded it to their servers. They've since fixed the app, and as far as I know, Apple has acknowledged the issue and promised a fix within iOS, so that it alerts users when an app wants to take a peek at their contacts. Probably already coming with iOS 5.1, expected on Wednesday.

    So, that's 1. Over to you, Derek.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001


    Re: Hear! Hear!

    I applaud European Commission and Apple's efforts to allow me to regain control over my privacy.

    And how is Apple trying to help you regain control over your privacy? The issue with the address book being accessible has been known since year one of the app store, and it still hasn't been addressed.

    And anything they are doing is probably as an assault at Google (since it would affect them more than Apple) then trying to 'help' you.

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