WSJ: Pandora Steals Your Info

More than half of the smart phone apps tested by the Wall Street Journal found that they were sending users personal information such as location, age, gender, and a phone’s unique identifier to advertisers; often without user consent. Among the worst offenders were popular music streaming service Pandora and text messaging app TextPlus 4 from app developer GOGII.

The Journal tested 101 apps that run on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile platforms, and found that 56 of them sent a phone’s unique identifier to third parties without user consent, 47 transmitted a phone’s location, and five sent out user demographic information.

TextPlus 4 sent a phone’s unique ID number to eight different advertising companies, and also sent a phone’s zip code and user age and gender to two of them. The app is only available for iOS. Meanwhile the Android and iOS versions of Pandora sent information to eight third parties, included location data to seven of those, a phone’s unique ID to three of them, and demographic data to two.

The makers of TextPlus 4 and Pandora said that information sent to third parties is not connected to a user’s name, and that personal information such as age and gender is offered by users. However the most transmitted bit of information was the phone’s unique identifier, a number unique to every phone that can be used by advertisers to track each phone owner’s behavior.

“We use listener data in accordance with our privacy policy,” a spokeswoman for Pandora told the Journal. The policy states that the company will share “non-personally identifiable information.”

The biggest recipient of user data was Google, through its AdMob, AdSense, Analytics and DoubleClick subsidiaries. And apps on Apple’s iOS app store were more chatty with advertisers than on the Android marketplace, despite Apple’s more rigid approval process.

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