iOS apps that want access to your location data must ask for permission before they can start collecting that information. But researchers from Guardian Mobile Firewall have found that a number of app developers are then on-selling that data without your permission.
Guardian App’s report into this found that while apps can access location data, as well as accelerometer information, Cellular Network Name, GPS altitude and/or speed, and timestamps for departure/arrival to a location, they are quite opaque about what they’ll do with that data outside their own software.
So, while an app might have a good reason for using that data, the developers aren’t being clear with what happens to the data outside the app. While many of the apps they list are primarily focussed on the US market, a couple such as Tapatalk and Photobucket are used more widely.
The researchers list 24 apps that “contain code from location data monetization firms”. They also list the firms making money from this data.
This research highlights something we often have very little control over but is increasingly being seen as a significant issue. Although we might be happy for one party to access our data, we really are unaware of what happens next. We use apps on the basis of trust but there are developers out there, trying to make a living, that have to turn to alternatives in order to make a living. And that may mean selling the data they collect.
While we thirst for free or very cheap apps, we should understand that when something is free, it’s most likely that we are really the product.