The Federal Trade Commission took a dim view of one of the most popular mobile apps after discovering the Brightest Flashlight Free app deceived consumers by sharing their location information without their knowledge.
Goldenshores Technologies, makers of the flashlight app for Android, settled with the FTC over charges it shared users' precise location and unique device identifier with third parties and ad networks, even after consumers opted not to share their information.
Since February 2011, the app has been downloaded to more than 50 million Android phones.
"This flashlight app left [consumers] in the dark about how their information was going to be used," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection.
The case is the FTC's first privacy case that involves the collection of location data from a mobile device, an issue that has drawn the attention of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who has held hearings on mobile phone privacy and location tracking with Google and Apple. His location privacy bill, requiring companies to obtain permission before collecting location information was voted out of the judiciary committee last year.
The settlement with the FTC prohibits Goldenshores from misrepresenting how consumer information is collected and shared, requiring the company to provide just-in-time disclosure about when, how and why their location information is used and shared. The company must also delete any personal information that has been collected from consumers.