Rovio, PopCap and Backflip games all secretly use “supercookies”, paper claims
Angry Birds developer Rovio has been named in an investigation into iPhone apps that allegedly transmit user data to third-party companies without consent.
The Wall Street Journal has claimed that Rovio’s game sends username, passwords, location data and a unique phone ID to external companies – a revelation that, true or not, will ignite criticisms of privacy defences on mobile app networks.
The investigation added that PopCap’s game, Bejewled, sends user names and phone numbers to third parties. Paper Toss, developed by Backflip Studios, sends phone ID and user location in the same way, the investigation claimed.
The Wall Street Journal said it had “designed a system to intercept and record the data” that iPhone and Android apps transmit, before decoding the data.
It also found that Openfeint, the mobile mobile game network used with numerous iPhone and iPad games, sends location data and Phone IDs to third parties.
The Wall Street Journal claimed that 56 of 101 tested apps had “transmitted the unique device ID to other companies without users' awareness or consent.”
The report did not state whether the developers knew of the data transmissions.
“The findings reveal the intrusive effort by online-tracking companies to gather personal data about people in order to flesh out detailed dossiers on them,” the paper claimed.
iPhones and Android devices are “sharing this personal data widely and regularly”, the paper summarised.
Vishal Gurbuxani of mobile advertiser firm Mobclix, said that the user IDs submitted were like a “supercookie”.
Apple and Google ad networks allow advertisers target groups of smarphone users, though both firms insist they don't track individuals based on the way they use apps.
iPhone apps "cannot transmit data about a user without obtaining the user's prior permission and providing the user with access to information about how and where the data will be used", Apple claimed, though the investigation appeared to contradict that claim.
Google said its app developers “bear the responsibility for how they handle user information".
In October the Wall Street Journal claimed that millions of Facebook users had their personal information leaked to advertising companies through various Zynga games.
The prior investigation found that all of the 10 most popular apps on Facebook had been transmitting user IDs to external companies.
Develop is contacting developers named in the report for comment.