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.