65 percent of iPhone users don’t know about apps’ risks to their privacy

Nov 9, 2011
Tech

Apple’s iPhone was at the center of a fairly large-scale controversy earlier this year, when researchers revealed a bug in the device’s iOS operating system that was saving GPS location data in an unprotected folder. That information made it possible for law enforcement officers, private detectives and others to use an iPhone to track every […]

Apple’s iPhone was at the center of a fairly large-scale controversy earlier this year, when researchers revealed a bug in the device’s iOS operating system that was saving GPS location data in an unprotected folder.

That information made it possible for law enforcement officers, private detectives and others to use an iPhone to track every place the device’s user had been, because any time the iPhone pinged a cellular tower for GPS coordinates, that information was stored on the device. When the news came out, it resulted in some hearings before members of Congress for Apple, Google and Microsoft, as well as some outrage among smartphone owners.

But despite the outcry at the time, a new survey from AdaptiveMobile finds that 65 percent of iPhone owners aren’t aware of the fact that apps they download to their devices could potentially violate their privacy. Pocket Gamer has the story, which details the global survey AdaptiveMobile has conducted of 1,024 iPhone users.

Malicious apps on smartphones aren’t exactly new. On Google’s Android operating system, viruses and apps that steal data aren’t exactly common, but they are a problem. Users of Apple’s devices have it a little easier because of the company’s strict vetting process before it approves apps for sale in the App Store, but as one security expert noted earlier this week, it’s still possible to exploit security holes in iOS and potentially hijack an iPhone. Others have been caught using apps to gather information about a user’s habits and transmit them back to the developer for advertising purposes.

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While AdaptiveMobile found that most iPhone users are unaware of potential security threats on their devices, it also found that even more of those users – 7 in 10 – believe these “privacy breaches” are unacceptable, Pocket Gamer reported.

From AdaptiveMobile’s point of view, the lack of awareness for iPhone users that their information can be stolen makes it easier for that information to be stolen. To a degree, that viewpoint makes sense. Users that don’t know they should limit what information they make available to mobile apps are inherently more at risk for that information to be stolen.

As always, it’s a good idea to do a little research to be sure of what vulnerabilities a smartphone might include, use only apps from developers you trust, and limit the kind of information you enter into apps to keep sensitive data from being seen by prying eyes. While AdaptiveMobile might be jumping to a bit of a distant conclusion in saying that users’ lack of knowledge leads to cybercrime, knowing that your iPhone could be vulnerable and being careful what you use it for can help keep your data safe.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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