A tiny free app for Android devices turned them into a flashlight, but also secretly collected users’ location and device IDs to sell to mobile ad firms, the US Federal Trade Commission alleged. The app’s maker has agreed to settle compensation claims.
As many as 100 million people who installed the "Brightest Flashlight Free" app on their mobile phones and other devices were subject to the dubious practice. The FTC acted to investigate after complaints from tech-savvy users who wondered why a flashlight app would need to know a phone’s location.
Goldenshores Technologies, an Idaho-based firm behind the free app, was collecting the data to sell to third parties, including mobile advertising networks, the FTC alleges. The information included the location of the device and its unique ID. The harvesting started even before a customer had a chance to read and accept or reject the app end user agreement.
“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.”