Apple's reputation for building a highly protective environment for its apps, fiercely filtering third party applications available for iDevices, has been called into question in a recent report.
Apparently, unauthorised apps are not as invasive of user privacy, leaking less private data than App Store authorised apps do, Forbes reports. In the past week, iOS users were alerted to a potentially serious breach of their privacy, when it emerged that an iPhone app called Path was uploading and storing users' complete contact lists without permission.
Forbes' Andy Greenberg took it upon himself to do some further research, and discovered that the situation is neither a one-off, nor recent. He discovered a study carried out by researchers from Vienna University of Technology (Austria), University of California (Santa Barbara), Institute Eurecom (Sophia Antipolis) and Northeastern University (Boston) describing the privacy threats that iOS applications pose to users.
The researchers analyzed 1,400 iPhone apps; both those Apple has officially approved, as well as some from the Cydia app store - specially designed for jailbroken iPhones.
"We found that more than half of the applications surreptitiously leak the unique ID of the device they are running on," one of the researchers explains.
Furthermore, one fifth of free apps in Apple's App Store upload private data that could be used by the apps’ creators to identify users and create profiles of their activities.
“For easily accessible data, app store apps are much more frequently accessing and leaking that data," claims Manuel Egele, post-doc researcher at UCSB, adding, “the applications you get from Cydia are geared toward more privacy-aware people.”
The sensitive information that could potentially be leaked to prying eyes includes access to the address book, current GPS coordinates of the device, unique device ID, photo gallery and email account information.