So, even though Apple screens apps before allowing then in their store, their standards still aren’t as strict as those practiced by developers of unauthorized apps?
Users have learned over the last few years that Apple’s “walled garden” approach to third party apps isn’t quite as protective of their sensitive data as it might sound. More surprising, perhaps, is another revelation: that the popular unauthorized apps outside those walls tend to respect privacy better than the approved ones inside.
As the scandal swirled this past week over news that the iPhone app Path uploads users’ entire contact lists without permission, I came upon a study (PDF here) released last year by a group of researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the International Security Systems Lab that aimed to analyze how and where iPhone apps transmit users’ private data.
Not only did the researchers find that one in five of the free apps in Apple’s app store upload private data back to the apps’ creators that could potentially identify users and allow profiles to be built of their activities. They also discovered that programs in Cydia, the most popular platform for unauthorized apps that run only on “jailbroken” iPhones, tend to leak private data far less frequently than Apple’s approved apps.