Smartphone apps track users even when shut down

Richard M. Smith richard.m.smith at
Mon Sep 3 05:10:44 PDT 2012

Some smartphone apps collect and transmit sensitive information stored on a
phone, including location, contacts, and Web browsing histories, even when
the apps are not being used by the phone's owner, according to two
researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"It seems like people are no longer in control of their own privacy," said
Frances Zhang, a master's degree student in computer science at MIT.

Zhang and fellow researcher Fuming Shih, a computer science doctoral
candidate, found that some popular apps for phones running Google Inc.'s
Android operating system are continually collecting information without
informing the phone's owner.

The popular game Angry Birds uses the phone's GPS and Wi-Fi wireless
networking features to track the owner's location, even when he's not
playing the game, for example. Another game, Bowman, collects information
from the phone's Internet browser, including what websites the owner has
been visiting. And WhatsApp, a popular text-messaging program, scans the
user's address book when it is seemingly idle.


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