Specifically, 56 of the 101 popular smartphone apps examined by the newspaper were found to transmit the phone's unique device ID to other companies without users' awareness or consent. Forty-seven of the apps transmitted the phone's location, and five sent age, gender, and other personal details to third parties.
iPhone apps transmitted more data than the Android apps did, the study found. Among the worst offenders was TextPlus 4, an iPhone app for text messaging that sent the phone's unique ID number to eight ad companies as well as the zip code, age, and gender of the phone's user to two of them.
"Apple says 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,'" the Journal reported. Nevertheless, "many apps tested by the Journal appeared to violate that rule." Apple also declined to discuss how it interprets or enforces that policy, it added.
Age, Gender, Location, Unique ID
Music app Pandora was another key offender, with both its iPhone and Android versions sending age, gender, location, and phone identifiers to various ad networks. Both versions of Paper Toss, meanwhile, sent the phone's ID number to "at least five ad companies," the Journal reported, while Grindr--an iPhone app targeting gay men--sent gender, location, and phone ID to three ad companies.
Despite the fact that Apple says apps must ask permission before revealing information, the Pumpkin Maker iPhone app, for example, transmits location information to an ad network without doing so, the Journal found.
Permission is not required on either Apple's or Google's platform to access some forms of the device ID, or to send it to outsiders.
"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 Journal wrote on Saturday.
No Written Privacy Policies
Several of the app makers involved said the data they transmit isn't linked to the individual's name, while details such as age and gender are volunteered by users, the Journal noted.