Some Android games monitor your location

The Australian government’s Stay Smart Online service is advising that some Android games can reveal your location without the user being aware:

Many mobile educational and game applications (apps), despite being designed for young children, have been identified monitoring children’s geographical locations and selling the information to advertisers.

Apps on your phone may request permission to access location, address book, email, SMS and other information as part of their normal functions, but for some apps, access to this information may not be necessary. If you are concerned about the privacy of your family, read the permission information carefully and be selective about granting the app access to information on your phone.

Managing an app’s access to information requires careful attention to the permissions you give the apps when you load it on your smartphone or tablet.

Security firm Bitdefender recently warned about the practice after noticing that some Android games such as Kids Educational Puzzles were requesting permission to track their users’ locations. This information is often sold to advertisers, who use it to target advertisements to specific types of users in particular parts of the world.

Android devices will show a warning screen when an app is installed and run, outlining exactly what type of information it wants to access. The latest version of Android (4.3), installed on new Android devices, includes an App Ops feature that lets you allow or block specific activities for each installed app.

iPhones and iPads do not explicitly highlight the types of data they collect, but you can control apps’ access to location information by looking in Settings > Privacy > Location Services.

Read the whole article here.

Social media app winning over kids, but police warn of its nasty Kik

On Sunday, The Age published a report about the social media app Kik.

NSW Police have described it as ”the number one social media problem involving teenagers” – but most parents would barely have heard of messaging app Kik before this week.

Kik’s popularity among young people was highlighted by the disappearance of Sydney teenager Krystal Muhieddine, who left her house early on Tuesday morning in a car with a stranger before being found in country Victoria on Friday.

The app can be installed on iPod touch and iPad devices as well as smart phones. Instead of using phone numbers or real names to contact each other, each Kik member has a user name. Conversations and images can’t be viewed publicly, which makes it much harder for parents to monitor Kik than Facebook or Twitter.

Cyber safety expert Ross Bark said Kik and Instagram were a ”dangerous combination” for teenagers, who post photographs publicly on Instagram and then invite viewers to ”Kik me” privately to chat.

”They’re literally promoting themselves, saying ‘come and talk to me’,” Mr Bark said. ”They can randomly chat with somebody and send images, and they don’t understand the consequences of who is using that information.”

Read the whole story here.

Malware found in Android apps

The Australian government’s Deaprtment of Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy‘s Stay Smart Online site has published a concerning post regarding the possibility of apps in the Google Play store containing malware.

The post explains:

Google has removed 32 apps from Google Play after the apps were discovered carrying a new form of malware (BadNews).

Globally, the apps have been downloaded millions of times.

Although the apps are no longer available from Google Play, if you have already downloaded any of these apps on your device you will need to uninstall them, they contain malware which may access your personal information or introduce further costly malware.

Read more here. It’s worth considering subscribing to the Stay Smart Online alerts service, where items of concern are emailed to all subscribers.

Privacy concern for children as apps share personal data

Late last year, the Sunday Age reported about the instance of smartphone and tablet apps sharing uer information, including location and phone numbers with third party sources.

Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim told Fairfax Media he was “very concerned” following the release of a US Federal Trade Commission study on children’s apps this month, which reported that hundreds of the most popular apps failed to provide parents with basic information about their data collection practices.

The report said the apps often transmitted the precise location and unique serial code of a mobile device as well as the phone number and other personal details to app developers, marketers and advertisers. This information could be then used to find, contact or track children across different apps or websites without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

Read the whole report here.

Have you checked your Facebook apps lately?

Teacher and technology wunderkind Richard Byrne has written an important blog post reminding Facebook (and Twitter) users to check which apps they’ve authorised to use and post from their account.

It’s often surprising just how many apps we’ve authorised and it’s possible that some of these apps could lead to our account being compromised. Anyone who’s received spam DMs or messages from ‘friends’ know that this is a real possibility.

Read Richard’s entire article here.