Apps Accessing Private Data on iOS Devices Discovered
Something many people are used to and take advantage of on PCs is the ability to customize and control almost everything, such as installing software to protect your privacy. Mobile devices however are more closed environments, so your privacy can be in greater danger. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have recently discovered just how great a danger your personal information is on iOS devices.
Regardless of if you use iOS or Android devices, smartphones and tables can hold a great deal of information about you, including location information and contacts. Ideally this information is always going to be protected from prying eyes, but reality is rarely ideal. In March 2012, the researchers released ProtectMyPrivacy (PMP) an app for jailbroken iOS devices that monitors what data other apps access, and can block the transmission of that information. Since then some 130,000 users have downloaded PMP and roughly 99% have been supplying anonymous information on the behavior of 225,000 other apps. Processing the reports reveals that 48.1% of those apps access the device's unique identifier, which can be used to track your behavior, with 13.2 % access location information and 6.2% looking at your address book. While all of the phones in the study were jailbroken, the researchers point out that most of the apps were acquired from the Apple App Store.
While the anonymous reports say that almost half of the tested apps access the identifier, the researchers have found that sometimes it is not the download app doing it, but an associated app, such as an ad library. The researchers did submit a lite version of ProtectMyPrivacy to the Apple App Store, for those with locked iOS devices to download, but it was rejected.