Downloading Apps – Be Careful!

EULA for brightest flashlight ever

So you see an ad for a new app, or one of your friends talks about it and you go and download it to your smartphone or tablet. It is fairly easy (and free) these days to build apps, and indeed many are doing it from home for fun and profit. Some of the most innocent looking apps though could be some of the most damaging. No, they won’t damage your phone, but they could give away quite a bit of information you wouldn’t normally want out. Let’s take a look at a simple, free app that over 1 million people have downloaded onto their devices, and let’s take a peek at one of it’s secrets.

The Brightest Flashlight App is free and many of us use it as a quick light when fumbling for a door in the dark or looking under a bed for something. Once you download it, you have to agree to a simple EULA (End User License Agreement), just like with almost every app you download and install. A company called Goldenshores EULA for brightest flashlight everTechnology, LLC created this app free, as most of their apps are free. However, they make money by selling precise GPS coordinates (anonymized as to the user it was collected from). So what this means in plain English is that you download and use this app, and the GPS of your house, work, friend, hotel or whatever was collected by the company for selling to third party developers and other organizations. This type of information could be harmless, could just be an invasion of your privacy, or could lead to much worse. It really all depends on who is buying the data and what they use it for. If you click on the link to that app, you’ll find many people now complaining about this sharing of data and giving this once prominent app with high ratings a much less desirable 1 star rating.

The United States FTC (Federal Trade Commission) took a look at this specific product and issued a complaint (which can be read online in its entirety here) and also issued a finding after their investigation (which can be also read online here). After working with Goldenshores, the FTC also issued a press release detailing the allegations, investigation and the finding/order they came to (which can be read here). So the key here is that although none of us want to wade through 3 and 4 thousand word EULA’s, if you’re downloading a free app for your devices, it is free for a reason. You need to be sure that those reason(s) are something you can accept and live with, because if you just click on “accept” and continue to use the app, you might find yourself with an unintended consequence that you can’t live with.

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