Kev and I joke around sometimes about this because on more than one occasion we would have been talking about a certain song and wouldn’t you know, that song would play next in our Pandora Radio channel. “I think it’s listening to us…”
Mobile App creators are facing an industry wide Privacy investigation. The probe is said to be centered on whether mobile app makers are violating the CFAA (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act) which was created to prosecute “hackers”. So, it seems to me that the angle the Feds are looking for kind of calls app makers “hackers”.
Online music service Pandora Media Inc. said Monday (03/04/2011) it received a subpoena related to a federal grand-jury investigation of information-sharing practices by smartphone applications.
According to Veracode, an application security company that analyzed the Pandora Radio App, the Pandora app for Android finds, gathers, and transmits mass quantities of personal data to advertising agencies which includes your birthday, gender, postal zip code, your phone’s unique device ID, and even your GPS coordinates! You can learn more on Veracode’s study of the Pandora Radio app on Tyler Shields blog post here.
The informational privacy war does not just stop at the federal level, however. Many companies that are involved in mobile technology are also facing civil lawsuits seeking a call to class action in one case demonstrated by A Los Angeles man who filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Apple, Pandora and other defendants in December, seeking class-action status on behalf of iPad and iPhone users. The suit claims that apps downloaded to those devices “have been transmitting their personal, identifying information to advertising networks without obtaining their consent.”
Makers of apps are also subject to complaints of unfair and deceptive trade practices from the Federal Trade Commission. Companies that fail to tell customers how they are collecting information and what is being done with that information should be subject to closer scrutiny in my opinion.
So what’s the moral of the story kids? Well, I don’t think anyone will be uninstalling their Pandora Radio app anytime soon, since it’s such a great app. We use it all the time in the office and on the road. But we should all be asking ourselves just what is being done with this information? Notice how the Pandora Radio Android App installation screenshot (taken today) doesn’t disclose any information about GPS tracking? Kinda makes you think your phone is watching you, doesn’t it?