NEW YORK (MainStreet) – There may be an app for everything these days, but according to one new study, there may also be a hidden risk to using many of these apps, at least when it comes to Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL).
Researchers at the Technical University of Vienna and the University of California, Santa Barbara, along with two other universities, analyzed 1,400 iPhone and iPad apps and found that the majority of them leaked sensitive information about the user or their device without notifying the user first.
The researchers developed their own software to analyze each of these apps to determine which leaked potentially sensitive data to a third party without first asking for the user’s consent. Sensitive information, in this case can refer to anything, from your GPS location and the unique user ID for your device to having access to your contacts and e-mail addresses.
Overall, the study found that a small fraction of applications (44 in total) leak personal information about users. These include apps like Gowalla, a social networking tool, which leaks e-mail addresses from your contacts to the developer without asking permission.
The more common privacy issue found in this study is that about 750 of these apps leaked the unique user identification number for the device. At first blush, this may sound like a benign problem, but according to the researchers, this ID can be traced back to you eventually.
“While these IDs cannot be directly linked to a user’s identity, they allow third parties to profile user behavior,” the researchers wrote. “Moreover, there is always the risk that outside information can be used to eventually make the connection between the device ID and a user.”
In particular, the researchers point to third-party applications like Facebook, which have the ability to link this ID number to a user’s profile if they have installed the social networking app on their phone or tablet. So from this device ID, a developer could potentially find out more personal information about you online.