‘Brightest Flashlight Free’ Android app has been sneakily sharing millions of user’s locations data
If you’re an Android phone user, take a second to look through your list of apps. There’s a very good chance that you’ve got an app called ‘Brightest Flashlight Free’ installed, probably because at some point you wanted to use the LED flash on your phone as a torch, and this app came up as the top search result in the Play Store.
Today it has been revealed that this simple app, which on the face of things merely provides a simple flashlight function, has been collecting the location data of each phone it has been installed on. That’s quite common for an app, but unfortunately the app’s developer GoldenShores Technologies has been found to be giving this data to advertisers without notifying its users – rather deceiving, we’re sure many users of the app would agree.
A complaint was made to the Federal Trade Commission regarding the app’s sneaky behaviour and as a result, its developer has now agreed to pay charges just as the whole fiasco comes to light. The original complaint to the FTC noted that ‘Brightest Flashlight Free’ transmits “precise” location data and a code unique to each device to third party advertisers. It has not yet been revealed if the app’s developers were making any money out of this, but it’s quite common for user location data and web usage history to exchange hands for serious cash.
With this data, advertisers could then target users with location-specific adverts either within mobile apps, on the web or out in the real world. Advertisers would be able to know how popular the flashlight app was in certain countries and cities as well.
The fallout results in the app’s developer being forced to give users more control over what data can and cannot be shared when using Brightest Flashlight Free and other apps from them. Normally this means a clear message when the app is first downloaded and opened, asking users if the app can access certain data, to which the user can say no.
Finally, for the millions out there who have used the app (currently the app has been downloaded over 5 million times), the FTC has forced GoldenShores Technologies to delete all records of user location data permanently.