iPhone spyware debated as app library “phones home”

Aug 17, 2009
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iPhone spyware debated as app library “phones home”

After Palm's Pre was heavily criticized last week over claims that the handset collected location data regarding the user and transmitted that back to the company, a developer has spotted that at least one third-party iPhone library, in use by several apps, does something similar.  The library is by Pinch Media and is used to track app owner data; it does this by recording not only location when you first start the app but your physical movements (among other things) while the app is open.

Pinch Media's library is used by developers - such as those behind free iPhone titles Camera Zoom and Twitterfon - to collect analysis data on app usage and common problems.  However the library does not give the user any way of monitoring or shutting off the tracking; agree to it when you install the host software, and it will continue to gather data for as long as you use the app.  If you don't have a network connection then the location data will be cached and sent when you're next online.

Full list of collected personal information after the cut

In fact it's not just location information; the following data is collected:

- iPhone's unique ID
- iPhone Model
- OS Version
- Application version (in this case, camera zoom 1.x)
- If the application is cracked/pirated
- If your iPhone is jailbroken
- time & date you start the application
- time & date you close the application
- your current latitude & longitude
- your gender (if facebook enabled)
- your birth month (if facebook enabled)
- your birth year (if facebook enabled)

The library has already been branded spyware by some, a label some developers disagree with but which, to our mind, fits it pretty well.  User tracking per se is not always a bad thing - some apps, like Google Latitude, make it the core of their business - but not giving users the opportunity to opt out, or even make it clear to them what data is being collected, sounds like spyware to us.  More on apps using iPhone spyware tools here.

[via iPhone Dev Blog]


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