Tech

Revealed: Most Apps Harvest User Address Book Info

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Path_Address_Upload

Next time you click download on an app on the Apple App Store, you may just be handing the owner of your app all your phone book contacts without knowing. This shocking reality was first unearthed when it was discovered that the popular app Path was uploading users’ entire address books to their servers. This caused an uproar from users but Path was quick to respond with an apology on their blog as well as disabling the function.

But this seems to be only the tip of the iceberg as it now emerges that dozens of other apps may be doing the same without users knowing it or even giving express consent to the same. Apple has now been put on the spot as more and more apps get called out for uploading user information to the app owner’s servers. In fact, a recent survey performed by a notable blogger said 13 out of 15 app owners had “millions” of user’s contacts on the servers.

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Apple has now said that this practice is not within its app store polices and guidelines but this only after receiving a letter from members of congress Henry Waxman and G K Butterfieldin which they suggest that Apple has been turning a blind eye to the practice, despite the fact that it appears to contravene developer guidelines.

Apple has now said that they will put in tighter measures to ensure this trend is arrested. Other apps that harvest personal user data include Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, Foursquare and Tumblr.

But it must also be said that biggest culprits have to be the app users themselves. For instance, users of the popular chat application Whatsapp install the application and skip the Terms and Conditions that shows up before the app runs for the first time.

These terms and conditions contain explicit details of the way in which the application will access your phone book and what it will do with the data it harvests.

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Many users will however say privacy is a very sensitive issue and should not be wrapped up in all the legalese that terms and conditions contain. The message is however simple, next time you download and install an app, take time to know what the app’s terms and conditions are and whether it will harvest your private data without your knowledge or consent.

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Daniel Mbure

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