Bitdefender's iOS privacy app yanked from the App Store

The iOS security app Clueful, which scanned apps for privacy policies, has been removed from the App Store after about two months on the market.

Josh Lowensohn
Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
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Bitdefender's Clueful privacy tracking app is no longer for sale on the App Store.
Bitdefender's Clueful privacy tracking app is no longer for sale on the App Store. CNET

Bitdefender's iOS app that let users see what information installed applications had access to, has been removed from the App Store after being approved nearly two months ago.

In a statement, Bitdefender said Apple alerted the company to the removal of the Clueful app -- which was first released in late May -- "after initial approval and sale." A Bitdefender spokesperson elaborated on that, saying it was actually removed on June 29.

The software made use of a proprietary database, which told users whether a particular application gathered analytics or accessed things like unique identification numbers and other personal information. If an installed application was not in that database, users could ask the company to analyze it.

Apple declined to comment on the removal. One possibility is that the app violated a section of the company's App Review Guidelines covering "incorrect diagnostic or other inaccurate device data."

Ahead of the removal, Bitdefender says it analyzed more than 65,000 "popular" apps on the iOS platform as part of that database. During that time, the company says it found a number of noteworthy privacy behaviors:

  • 42.5 percent of apps do not encrypt users' personal data, even when accessed via public Wi-Fi.
  • 41.4 percent of apps were shown to track a user's location unbeknownst to them.
  • Almost one in five of the apps analyzed can access your entire Address Book, with some even sending your information to the cloud without notification.

According to Catalin Cosoi, Bitdefender's chief security researcher, the company intends to bring the application back to the App Store. Cosoi added that Bitdefender will also maintain, update, and expand its database of applications. However, he declined to say what the reason behind the removal was, citing a confidentiality agreement that the company signed to become a developer on Apple's platform.

One thing that might change by the time Clueful returns to the App Store is that Apple has made app privacy more granular in iOS 6. The iOS 6 software, which is expected to roll out to consumers in the next few months, requires that apps spell out the kind of user data they need access to. The existing version of iOS is more broad, covering things like user contacts and location, even when an app is only asking for access to a user's camera roll.

In an interview with CNET, Cosoi said Bitdefender will offer, inside Clueful, "a lot more detail" than what Apple serves up. "Even though Apple is doing a lot in terms of security and privacy, we're trying to offer a lot of insight," he said.

Bitdefender says those who already downloaded the program back when it was still available can continue to use the app. The company did not offer a prediction on when the software would return, or if it could continue to charge for it.

Update, 11:31 a.m. PT: Adds more details from Bitdefender.