PopCap fires back at 'misleading' privacy probe

PopCap fires back at 'misleading' privacy probe

By Rob Crossley

December 23rd 2010 at 1:32PM

Developer, which was accused of sending data to third parties, denies underhand practices

Bejeweled developer PopCap has branded Wall Street Journal findings “misleading” after the paper claimed that numerous app developers had “shared personal data widely and regularly” in “violation” of Apple rules.

The Wall Street Journal investigation found that a majority of the 100 apps it tested had allegedly transmitted user data to third-party companies without consent – in a move that will ignite criticisms of privacy defences on mobile app networks.

The investigation specifically claimed that PopCap’s game, Bejewled, sends user names and phone numbers to third parties.

Ed Allard, Head of Studios at PopCap Games, has played down the accusations.

”Recent reports on user data and transmissions to third parties for a variety of iPhone applications have been misleading and possibly confusing for PopCap customers,” he told Develop.

”PopCap would like to assure players of Bejeweled 2 for iPhone that only after they link the game to their Facebook account, will PopCap transmit that player’s user name and password to Facebook,” he added.

In regards to the matter of sending phone numbers, Allard again claimed this was all to do with optional Facebook integration.

”If a player has set up his or her Facebook account to authenticate the account using their phone number, then the player has the option of transmitting his or her phone number to Facebook through the Bejeweled 2 application on iPhone,” he said.

“The transmission of user name, password and phone number is optional and occurs only after explicit player input through a Facebook login dialog box for Blitz mode. After logging in to Facebook, players can interact with their Facebook account through Bejeweled 2 on their iPhone.”

PopCap has not been the first to reject the Wall Street Journal investigation.

Angry Birds developer Rovio said the report was “vague enough to instigate mistrust in our users” after it was accused of sending large quantities of personal data to third parties.

”Angry Birds does not under any circumstances collect or store personally identifiable information that could be connected in any way to individual users,” the group said in response to the claims.

The Wall Street Journal report found that some of the 100 apps it tested had sent data to external ad companies.

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 stated, though the investigation appeared to contradict that claim.

Google said its app developers “bear the responsibility for how they handle user information".