Pandora, the free mobile internet personalised radio app maker, found itself caught up in controversy when a federal grand jury subpoenaed the company for its alleged participation in the “unethical” sharing of user personal data, incuding gps coordinates, to advertisers.
The company is accused of passing on 'mass quantities' of information such as GPS coordinates, the user's birthday, gender, postal code and Android ID, to various advertising platforms.
The accusation of application providers selling the personal information of their users to 3rd parties is nothing new. Free mobile application providers have long been suspected of selling personal user information to advertisers in a bid to monetise their operations.
Tyler Shields, a researcher at security testing firm Veracode, wrote in a blog post, "your personal information is being transmitted to advertising agencies in mass quantities. As more and more 'free' applications attempt to monetize their offerings, we will likely see more of your personal information being shuttled out to marketing and advertising data aggregation firms,"
With the increasing popularity of smartphones, the number of app stores has also increased significantly. While there are a number of 'authenticated' app stores like the Android Market, or Apple App Store, there are also those unofficial stores who do not insist on certain standards and don't have such stringent vetting procedures.
Pandora, in its defence, pointed out in a statement that it is not the only name in the Jury’s subpoena list, and that plenty of other companies have been implicated.