A fan of the popular Android game app Words with Friends, got a peak into the kind of information is shared with advertisers after he had problems with the game crashing. Smackywolf over at Reddit Android discovered that the game sends the following information to advertisers: the users MEI, the build of the phone and it’s make and model, brower details. Smackywolf believes that with that information, advertisers has access to his carrier, his unique browser ID, phone fingerprint, email address and possibly his phone number. And he’s not happy about it.
I don’t really want some random advertiser having this information about me. I’m more than a little upset that my IMEI is being sent and used as a tracking ID by some website. This potentially means that I can be tracked by anything that is using this advertiser, and indeed, anyone that shares data with that advertiser … I’m not a big privacy advocate, but I think this is terrible.
Apps developers have come under fire of late for mining personal data and Words with Friends seems to be just the next in the long list of apps which have been caught with their hand in the privacy cookie jar. According to a recent test, it’s been found that anywhere from 20-50% of all Android apps are sending private information to advertisers without the user being aware. Google, however, states that every user is advised upon installation that data will be shared and that warning is part of their developers terms of service. But in reality, do users really read all that information? Do they really know that their location, gender, age and other personal information is being sent to advertisers?
And considering apps as popular as Words with Friends, the app developers brag in their marketing that they’ve got millions of online users. That’s a lot of privacy violations to gloss over. Users are well advised to read the privacy policies of apps before installing them so they know what information they are unwittingly sharing with the world.