Game and photo apps that are spying on you

Posted at 6:21 PM, Dec 26, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-26 18:39:47-05

(CBS) – Washington, D.C. – There are billions of smartphone users and millions more are believed to have just joined the club following the holiday season. While the devices have made life much easier – the apps that most are downloading have made it easier to track your whereabouts creating a security risk.

And it’s not even the obvious apps like Facebook or Foursquare that allow you to check in, that are the problem, it’s the apps that are more subtle in their tracking.

Mobile privacy expert, Jason Hong, said he and his team of specialists at Carnegie Mellon’s Human Computer Interaction Institute looked the top 100 apps and it turns out half of them had some kind of privacy concerns; both collecting and using some kind of sensitive information taken from your mobile device.

Instagram, Flickr and even the ever-popular Angry Birds were among the apps that created the most concern. While you use the app, it quietly transmits your location and more.

“We found out that it sends a device ID to at least three different kinds of companies. You can see them right here,” said Hong.

Hong said he was even more surprised to find that an app that turns your phone into a simple flashlight also recorded your location and phone ID.

CBS took those concerns to the app makers themselves. The company that creates Angry Birds, Rovio, wrote back saying it “takes privacy concerns very seriously” and said it uses the data captured to create a better user experience.

Other companies acknowledged that the tracking is done to market to the consumer.

All the app makers responding to the criticism pointed users to their disclosures and written policies that most people don’t read. And Hong said if you read each policy on each application or web site you used this year, it would take three months of your life.