The developers behind a free torch app for Android smartphones have confessed to stealing users’ location data to send to advertisers.
The app, Brightest Flashlight Free, has been downloaded tens of million times by customers, since it was uploaded to the Android app store on 8 September 2013. Only a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revealed how the app “deceived consumers” over how their data was being used.
“When consumers are given a real, informed choice, they can decide for themselves whether the benefit of a service is worth the information they must share to use it,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But this flashlight app left them in the dark about how their information was going to be used.”
Goldenshores, the app’s developers, told consumers that they would be using information collected by the app, but that they would not share this data with any third parties.
The FTC also noted that the app would start transmitting this data, even before consumers chose to “Accept” or “Refuse” Brightest Flashlight Free’s terms of service agreement.
The case is notable as it is the first time the FTC has specifically targeted software developers for abusing the access to rich location data that smartphones provide.
The app still remains in the Google Play Store, although Goldenshores will have to delete any personal information collected from the app and provide a “a just-in-time disclosure that fully informs consumers when, how, and why their geolocation information is being collected, used and shared.”