Free iOS Apps Collect More Data than Android Apps, Report Says

Remember those reports saying mobile monetization is led by iOS? The reason why iOS makes more money is because all free apps in Apple’s App Store collect more data than free apps available from Google Play, which raises privacy concerns, suggests a recent Appthority report (via Macworld).

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The February 2013 report “provides an overview of the security risks behind 100 free iOS and Android apps”. The reason behind focusing on free apps is that these third-party applications are “more inclined to collect data on the user and share it with outside parties such as ad networks or analytics companies as a method of generating revenue,” the market research company says.

Being free also equates to being popular, Appthority says, and in turn customers bring those apps into the workplace, reasons the market research company in their initiative to take the top 10 free apps under their loop across five common categories from the App Store and Google Play.

And their findings are pretty interesting: The vast majority of free apps send and receive data to outside parties without encryption, but maybe more important is the fact that 96% of these apps share data with ad networks and analytics companies.

Although Google Play has seen a spike in malware, the free apps analyzed by Appthority scored less in terms of risky behaviour compared to iOS. So, how does this look through Appthority’s eyes?

“The results show that iOS apps have more access to user data. The majority of iOS apps track for location (60%), share data with advertising or analytics networks (60%) and have access to the user’s contact list (54%). A small percentage of iOS apps also had access to the user’s calendar (14%).”

“Android apps were not too far behind. Half of the Android app shared data with ad networks and/or analytics companies, and 42% tracked for location. However, substantially fewer Android apps had access to contacts (20%) and none of them accessed the user’s calendar.”

What the research firm forgets to mention, though, is that with iOS 6 Apple has introduced additional layers for protecting the user’s privacy. You may recall the “Privacy” tab, where you can grant or deny access to apps requiring access to private data such as location, contact list, calendar, photos, reminders and Bluetooth sharing.

Furthermore, Apple recently introduced an Advertising Identifier with iOS 6.1 which ends the personal identification era on iDevices. While this isn’t in full use, Apple’s recent move to reject apps using cookie tracking shows the company has started transitioning to this new technology.