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Friday, December 06, 2013
Android App Shared Users' Location, Device ID Without Consumers' Knowledge

Millions of Android users have been "deceived" by a developer who covertly gathered personal data, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said.

Goldenshores Technologies, LLC, is the company behind the "Brightest Flashlight Free" app, which has been downloaded tens of millions of times by users of the Android operating system. The popular app for Android mobile devices allows a device to be used as a flashlight. However, it also deceived consumers about how their geolocation information would be shared with advertising networks and other third parties.

The FTC's complaint alleged that the company's privacy policy failed to disclose that the app transmitted users' precise location and unique device identifier to third parties. Consumers also were presented with a false choice when they downloaded the app, according to the complaint. Upon first opening the app, they were shown the company's End User License Agreement, which included information on data collection. At the bottom of the license agreement, consumers could click to "Accept" or "Refuse" the terms of the agreement. Even before a consumer had a chance to accept those terms, though, the application was already collecting and sending information to third parties ? including location and the unique device identifier.

To settle the FTC charges, GoldenShores has agreed to give users more control over what happens to their data. The settlement also requires the defendants to provide a just-in-time disclosure that fully informs consumers when, how, and why their geolocation information is being collected, used and shared, and requires defendants to obtain consumers' affirmative express consent before doing so.

The defendants also will be required to delete any personal information collected from consumers through the Brightest Flashlight app.

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