iPhone Apps Can Expose Your Identity in the Cyberspace

Exposing ourselves on the internet through social networking is one way to make the world know we exist but the marketing and advertising fraternity will find us through another route as well. iPhone and iPad apps are raising eyebrows with user information privacy related issues, issues such as exposing a person’s identity and location by transmission of user specific data on apps.

A detailed study carried out at Bucknall University in the United States has identified a number of apps that send UDID (Unique Device Identifier) numbers to servers of the creator of the application as most of the apps do not have any encryption for securing information of the user. Apps such as Amazon, Facebook and Twitter tend to link a UDID with a person’s identity. This empowers them to promote certain type of products for marketing and other promotional purposes. The study revealed 68% UDIDs transmitted also include the user’s data which is connected to a stored account. This happens whenever a user selects apps from Most Popular and Free categories. Use of this unmonitored data is a valuable marketing tool for advertisers.

Nigel Waters of the Australian Privacy Foundation said that the shocking aspect of this apparent user information security breach is that people don’t know that it is happening each time they use the apps. People are already puzzled of the number of companies and agents have access to their mobiles and email accounts as they regularly get offer messages and calls from people whom they never ever shared any such information about themselves. According to Mr. Waters, the users must be informed about such an activity and must be given more control about the extent of information they are willing to share on the cyberspace. The default setting can also be customised to secure the user’s interest.

Currently, there isn’t any option to not disclose their whereabouts on an online forum. If anyone wants to sell a product then they must do so by maintaining reasonable space from the user than just overwhelming them with the sales tactics.

Users do have the choice of not disclosing their whereabouts but there is hardly any vigilante on restricting the exposure of the UDIDs from the installed apps. The terms of accessing Apple’s App Store requires the user to log in their location details and this database is used by partners to enhance the sale of products and related services on that location.

If conducted a survey amongst users of iPhone apps, one would be surprised by the number of people who have access to their information based on the number of times we visit a certain website and give out our details.

When Apple Inc. was questioned on the information security issues pertaining to iPhone apps, they issued a press statement on the 9th of September stating the following; “We are relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps, as long as the resulting apps do not download any code. This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need.”

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