Should phone apps be able to track your location and share information without asking for these permissions? Even if they ask for these permissions should they be allowed to use this information considering most people do not read the content associated with the agreements they sign?

 

Meitu, a photo-editing app, has been in the news recently for doing just this. But, they are not the only app that tracks information to better advertise to the phone owner. In fact, many apps and websites already participate in similar practices and general consumers are unaware how widespread the data collection really is. Some of these apps even sell the information they collect to advertisers, bringing up even more issues with privacy. Meitu has stated that it does not in fact sell the information to anyone, the only reason that they collect the data is to optimize the performance of the app.

 

The way the app currently runs the Android version can access what other apps are running, Wi-Fi connections, the unique device identification number, carrier details, and the location of the user. The iOS version has access to similar information. However, to many it is not clear why the app needs permission to access all of these different things in order to change the appearance of selfies, especially considering other photo editing apps do not require the same permissions. Access to the phone’s camera and camera roll are normal for an app of this kind but the more detailed information is unnecessary for the functionality of the app. In fact, it is possible that the code violates the iPhone App Store policies on data collection. Additionally, all of the data being collected is stored on Chinese servers.

 

Meitu even has a US patent for the technology it uses to edit photos.

 

As the market for new app’s grows do users really know what they are agreeing to when they download the app? Will the law catch up to the explosion of apps that are created every day in order to restrict what they can collect in order to protect the privacy of users?

 

–Elaine Bailey

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