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Big-Name Mobile Apps are Poaching Your Phone's Address Book

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on March 12, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Some big-name mobile apps may be taking data without a user's explicit permission.

Apps like Twitter, Foursquare, and Instagram all reportedly take information in a user's address book. The information taken includes contact names, emails, and phone numbers.

Online privacy is something most consumers are concerned about. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many different mobile apps are all clamoring for your data. These days it seems that it's all-too-easy to leave too much personal information up for public view.

That's why it's such bad publicity for the companies and app developers involved. Sometimes the data is stored. Other times it isn't, but it is transmitted to an outside server. And the common thread between all of these applications is this: sometimes users don't have knowledge that this is happening.

And these applications are violating Apple's rules. App guidelines currently mandate that programs need to obtain prior permission before transmitting or collecting information.

These violations came to light after a social app Path was discovered to be uploading their users' information. Path sent the address book data to a server -- without asking users to opt-in first. The company has since apologized.

But why do these companies want access to your address book? The main reason for many is to allow users to connect with their friends. For example, if you use Twitter or Foursquare, using your address book data can let you know if you have friends or contacts that are already using the program.

Yet maybe it should be up to the user to determine if they want their information uploaded. With so much negative publicity, it seems likely that app developers will be more careful with their policies in the future.

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