Web Firms are Spying on Smartphone Users’ Personal Data!

Feb 27, 2012   //   by Obaidul Haque   //   internet marketing, SEO Blog  //  13 Comments

Facebook celebrated the International Data Privacy Day last month (January 28, 2012). Around only a month later, The London Sunday Times reports that Facebook accesses personal text messages of users who download the social network’s smartphone application. Fox News also covered this story saying that Facebook is spying on phone users’ personal data.

However, it’s not only Facebook that’s spying on users’ personal information. A number of other high profile web firms are indulging into this practice. Several similar cases have been reported lately.

Widely popular companies like Flickr (a photo sharing site by Yahoo), Badoo (a social discovery website) and Yahoo Messenger are stealing private data of smartphone users. Recently, Twitter also admitted storing users’ private data including contacts lists and address books.

Should web firms spy on customers’ personal data?

This is a burning issue for all high profile web firms, and the user. Today’s users are highly concerned about how their personal data will be handled. In fact, ‘user privacy concern’ is one of the emerging digital trends in 2012.

Though many web firms would claim to disclose the permission to use customers’ personal data, very small percentage of people actually goes through the terms and policies. According to a recent study, around 70% of all smartphone users scarcely or never go through the policies before they download an app on their phone.

Whether you’re an advertising agency, a retail marketer, an OS creator, a social networking platform or a search engine, you can never ignore the privacy issue regarding personal customer information. It’s, therefore, crucial to provide users with more knowledge and control over their personal data.

A Smartphone App – An Excellent Tool to Extract Private Information!
Your personal information is extremely valuable. Since companies know that they can cash in on this private data in many ways, they use different ways to collect the same. And smartphone apps give web firms an excellent opportunity to extract a vast amount of private information as users download the required apps on their phones.

The App Store features more than 500,000 iPhone apps, belonging to different categories. Android phone users, on the other hand, can download more than 400,000 different apps.

In the United States alone, 91.4 million people use smartphones. As texting is the most popular activity on smartphones, companies can go to any extent to collect this private data and use it to their business benefits. And the usage of smartphones worldwide is continuously on the rise as well.

How Comfortable (or Safe) are You?
It’s not just the location information that’s being disclosed while you download an app. Mobile application developers can get their hands on your phone’s contact lists, address books and text messages. Unless consumers are given clear notice about privacy policies and total control over their private data, downloading apps poses a big risk.

Are you a smartphone user? Please feel free to share your views and opinions on this burning issue.

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Obaidul Haque

Obaidul works as an SEO manager handling client projects. He focuses heavily on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media Marketing (SMM). Also a passionate blogger and freelance writer, he shares his insightful views regularly on HelloBloggerz . You can follow him on Google Plus or Twitter.

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  • Julie says:

    I’ve read about this in the last couple of months so much. But I think, if the company wants to collect my data, I don’t give a … . My life isn’t interesting at all, so could collect my data if they want to:)

  • Rene says:

    Wow, that’s pretty scary stuff.
    Is there nothing that we can truly call private these days. I once watched an old horror movie as a child where i think a serial killer reincarnated as a computer and started killing people in a persons address book. I wouldn’t be able to tell you what the movie was called (it’s something I tried to block out of my mind since I saw it)
    And I’m not suggesting that Facebook would ever do something like that. But seriously where do the privacy laws end.
    I get annoyed when a friend allows an app to access all of their contacts, and suddenly we all get a video posted on our wall that does the same thing. Apps are pretty smart the way they say, allow us to access all of your private information or miss out on the glory of having this cool app.
    I suppose it helps to keep a clean slate. 🙂

  • Jim Jenks says:

    I personally don’t care too much about them collecting certain data, it only helps them direct better and more applicable ads and marketing to me. I don’t know how I feel about certain apps collecting and storing data about my phone contacts and text messages but it’s not really going to stop me from using their services. Good insights, thanks.

    • Different people have different views about their smartphone personal data privacy. You’re right in a way when you say it helps companies serve better ads. However, only you know how valuable your personal data is.

      I don’t think a lot of people would be comfortable with this ‘data spy’ thing.

      Let’s hear what others have to say.

      Thanks for sharing your views, Jim.

  • Ray says:

    Personally I don’t trust anything when it comes to personal info and privacy whether it’s a phone app or what have you. There is constantly something in the news about information being lost or stolen. It is just disappointing that in some cases you are required to provide personal info and details and a company, product, service, or what have you can’t keep it safe. Even worse when they intentionally share it to their advantage or profit.

  • Cathy35 says:

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  • Charrmagn says:

    I think we really have to be aware with this and I am thankful that you are concerned to the people around you…Thanks for this post…

  • Matt says:

    At the end of the day, its simple. How much information can you get from you target market. From a purely business standpoint, this is what is required to be successful. The more knowledge that you have, the easier it is to convert a prospect into a buyer.

  • John

    @ Ray
    I am also like you and don’t want any of my personal data being accessed by those not known to me.
    The worst thing is when some try to take advantage by selling the list. Very bad practice it is.

  • slickwillie says:

    Good article, Oabaidul.
    I’m getting ready to buy my first smartphone for better access to maps, and where-is-the-nearest-xxx info. The days of wandering the streets of strange cities asking strangers for help are over, in part, due to safety concerns. (And good luck finding telephone books and/or phone booths!)

    After reading this, I’ll avoid the “fun” apps, not link the phone to other devices, and save Facebook, Twitter and company for the home computer.

    And yet, the seductive siren call of Instant gratification and convenience are virtually impossible to ignore.Though, it seems that the fun apps are the most dangerous. Though a friend was able to pull together her entire family through social media with hep from her cell phone to witness the birth of her nephew. That’s a pretty powerful endorsement for social networking. I’m still not sure, as monumental as that experience was, that it’s worth twitter and facebook and all things google having access to the footage,text messages, and every participants email address.

    As for convenience, buying a ticket or making reservations when you’re dead tired after a long,stressful flight is wonderful,except that conducing money exchanges on a cell phone with unknown links to who knows what company really might trump aching feet and heavy luggage. And we don’t really want to think about the nasty individuals who may eventually develop false apps and cell phone viruses that allow access to contacts and finances.

    Seems paranoid, but if ,God forbid,someday we went through some awful government takeover and curfews and military rule became the norm, generations of a family could be rounded up and wiped out within hours simply by downloading one family member’ s cell phone data. IF this were Nazi Germany, the Nazis wold have an easy time picking of not just “undesirables”,but anyone who ever “friended” one.You don’t even have to touch the home computer yet.

    Extreme? Not so much. In Iran after the so-called Twitter revolution young people were tracked down and paid heavily for all that electronic freedom of expression.

    Anyway,thanks for the forum.

    Slick Willie