A Wall Street Journal investigation into the data sharing policies of many top smartphone apps found that many-including the leading music streaming service Pandora-share users information with outside sources without users' knowledge or consent.
Of the 101 apps researched, 56 transmitted the unique device ID of the phones running them, 47 transmitted location data, and five sent age, gender and other information. Pandora was one of the apps that transmitted all three: location data to seven different companies, unique phone ID to three and demographic data to two.
While it sounds very nefarious, most of this information is not nearly as personal as the report makes it seem. Most of it is as common as cookies and other tracking methods that are accepted online. Location data for instance is not generated from the phone's GPS system (unless specifically used as part of the app) but rather a far more generalized zip-code level of location. And the phones unique ID code does not share the users' name or address or anything like that.
Much of this information is used to inform which types of ads are delivered to apps-like Pandora-that rely on advertising to remain a free service. Much of the data shared in the WSJ report went to mobile ad networks.
Yet the report does expose how little control or information is available to users who may want to limit the amount of data shared about them.