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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Android App's Dirty Little Secret

Not long after Droid X came out last summer I got one, breaking a years-long relationship with Blackberry.  For the most part I've been pretty happy (other than a few things about which I've written: WTF Verizon?  Droid X PunishmentAndroid (Droid X) Kills SonicWall TZ210Things I Hate About My Droid X (Android)Blockbuster Android (cr)App, and Quest to Remove Droid Crapware).
See How To Remove City ID (and other crapware like Blockbuster, Skype and VZ Navigator) From Droid X (and other Android phones) for detailed instructions.
While I'm fed-up, mainly with Verizon, for all the crapware loaded on my Android phone which I cannot remove without rooting, I'm also very upset with apps that for no good reason are (or, at least have the ability) spying on me.

Over this long holiday weekend I've had some time to play with the phone - not just installing what appear to be cool apps.  I recently installed SystemPanel which is a great app to see CPU and memory utilization along with currently running apps.  Much to my chagrin I found apps like Music, My Verizon Mobile, Skype Mobile, and a few others I installed running even though I hadn't opened any of them, and I had just restarted the phone.  Why the hell do any of these need to run.  I immediately started uninstalling the apps that I could (aCar and a few others I can't remember right now); mostly ones I had installed a while ago and thought were kinds of cool but haven't actually used.

I've been running the free version of Lookout Mobile Security for a few months.  Tonight I decided to step it up a notch and use their 30-day trial full/pro version.  One of the features of the full version is see exactly which apps have what access through the Privacy Dashboard in their Privacy Advisor.

Like just about anybody else I gloss over the access rights any give app has when installing it.  Actually I have bypassed installing a few apps because they "required" more rights than I thought they should have.  Additionally I have read recently a few articles and blog posts where rights and privacy have been discussed, and I've been increasingly concerned about my personal information being used without my permission or knowledge.

While using Lookout tonight I'm installing even more apps; some I use, some I don't, but have kept them around either because they looked cool or I was just too lazy to get rid of them before.  None of these have any reason to know either my location, or phone or serial number's - NONE!

I don't remember all the apps I uninstalled, but here are the ones I do remember.
  • AP Mobile (access to phone number and serial number)
  • Break Videos (access to phone number and serial number, and GPS location) - I'm a big fan of Break.com, but this is too much, there mobile app will no longer live on my Droid.
  • CBSNews (access to phone number and serial number, and GPS location)
  • Documents To Go (access to phone number and serial number)
  • Dolphin Browser HD (GPS location, including sending it off the phone!)
  • File Manager (access to phone number and serial number)
  • Firefox  (GPS location, including sending it off the phone!)
  • Level (access to phone number and serial number)
  • Media Remote by Sony (GPS location, including sending it off the phone!)
  • MemoryGame (access to phone number and serial number)
  • Pandora (access to phone number and serial number)
  • PayPal  (GPS location, including sending it off the phone!) - Why the hell does PayPal need my location?
  • Real Blackjack (access to phone number and serial number)
I realize all these apps may not be nefarious, but better to be save than sorry.

Starting spring cleaning early. . . .

2 comments:

  1. Good info! Thanks for passing this along.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lol, you do realize the reason they need your phone number and/or serial number is so if they are doing a study of who uses their app they can know what region they live in or where most peoples' phones are made...?!

    ReplyDelete