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EU blasts apps that illegally share your data

EU data protection campaigner Viviane Reding has blasted apps that illegally share your data with advertisers.

EU data protection campaigner and EU vice president Viviane Reding has warned that mobile apps and advertisers "are spotting you, they are following you, they are getting information about your friends, about your whereabouts, about your preferences."

Reding, European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, told Channel 4 News that this sort of thing is "exactly what we have to change".

The Luxembourgian politician and former journalist is a champion of data protection, currently pushing for a change to data protection law and recently denouncing Google's new privacy policy.

Channel 4 recruited a digital security company to investigate what apps do with your data. It found that a significant number of apps are illegally passing on the permisions you give them to advertisers, letting advertisers gobble up data about you, your friends, your preferences and habits.

US advertising network MobClix is singled out for criticism. Ad networks recruit advertisers and app developers, placing ads ins the apps. When you download an app you grant it permision to access your information, usually to make it work -- but that information is also routinely passed on to advertisers, with some even accessing the information in your phone directly.

Google provides guidance for app developers, but doesn't screen apps offered through the Android Market. On the plus side, the Market is packed with useful, entertaining and innovative apps. But on the downside, it's open to abuse like this -- or worse, malicious apps that contain spyware.

By contrast, Apple vets every single app in the App Store. That can stifle the variety of apps on offer, but at least you know an app is safe. And if your data is being abused, at least you know Apple is getting a cut. Er, hang on...

Is an open and unmoderated Android Market important to you, or would you prefer a bit of restrictions if it guarantees your privacy? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.

Update: Mobclix told us that there is "no backdoor or secret access to sensitive information", and it "has never captured information about users' contacts, calendars and location without expressed permission from users".

"There are tons of apps in the Android market that have more access to sensitive data than any app that is using advertising," the network also claimed.

"Android permissions often grant access to chunks of information rather than a single piece of data. Therefore, in some cases, apps need a permission to access a single piece of data, but because of Android's permission system, they technically have access to other stuff. There is nothing we can do about that."