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So, you went ahead and bought that Android phone, tablet, thing, despite my warnings. Well, you’ve stepped in it now, and you might not even realize it. There is a new, Android app masquerading as a flash light, but is secretly tracking your every movement, and sharing it with advertisers. The app in question was downloaded over 50 million times.

http://www.theverge.com/2013/12/6/5181472/brightest-flashlight-free-ftc-location-data-settlement

Normally, I wouldn't even consider this news. This sort of thing happens all the time on Android. All those free utilities routinely rejected by Apple, make up a large percentage of the Android, app experience. Most all free apps exist only to exploit you. That is true on any platform, but doubly so on Android. That is due, in large part, to the fact that Google doesn’t give a flying snot about your security. 

Google’s faux ethos of openness really just leaves you open, and vulnerable to attack from bad actors like this app developer. Anyone can put anything in the Android Marketplace for you to download. There is a reason why antivirus is the first thing that any Android user needs to download. 

It is not just that there is no curation in the app market; it is that Google is all about providing third-party advertisers with as much information about you as they can get. That is how Google makes their money. They sell information about you to advertisers. They get the information from your search queries, email, calendars, text messages, and any other data that you access through their software and devices. The fact that some random developer does it is just not that big of a deal from Google’s perspective. 

No, what makes this news is the fact that the FTC got involved. From the article:

“When consumers are given a real, informed choice, they can decide for themselves whether the benefit of a service is worth the information they must share to use it,” says Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection. “But this flashlight app left them in the dark about how their information was going to be used.” The FTC’s settlement forces GoldenShores Technologies, the app developer, to provide more control over the location sharing and not misrepresent how the data is being used and shared. GoldenShores Technologies must also delete all the data it previously collected as part of the FTC settlement.

What are the odds of the company actually deleting that ill-gotten information? Little to none! Understand, this is not Google coming down on the developer; it’s the FTC. Google doesn’t have a problem with it. The only problem the FTC has with it is that the app developers misrepresented what it is the app actually does, and did not give consumers sufficient ability to opt out of the tracking. 

If you read the comments in other places where the story is posted, you will see a lot of Android fans blaming the victims. To them, if you got fooled by the app, then you’re just too stupid to use a smart phone. That’s actually how they feel. Though Google executives have not come out and said this, it seems as if this accurately sums up how they feel, as well. If you are too stupid to figure it out, then you don’t really deserve tech support. On Android, if some developer bilked you out of your fortune, you should have read the fine print. You should have known better. You should go back to your iToys.

Hmmm… that last one sounds like good advice to me. You’ve been warned, again.

David Johnson

 

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