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Clueful scans your iOS apps for privacy behavior

The iOS security app scans what's installed on your device and tells you what kinds of information your apps have access to.

Clueful tells you what kinds of information your apps access.
Clueful tells you what kinds of information your apps access.
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

A new iOS app aims to make app privacy more transparent and easier to stay on top of, especially when it comes to information-tracking you might not have even realized what was going on behind the scenes.

Security firm Bitdefender today rolled out Clueful (iTunes), an app that lets you see what information other applications installed on your phone might have access to.

Once installed, the $3.99 app scans your device to see what's installed and puts it in an ordered list that can be filtered based on the various kinds of behavior. This includes things like:

  • Apps that can track location
  • Apps that can read the address book
  • Apps that might drain battery
  • Apps that use iPhone's unique ID
  • Apps that display ads
  • Apps that gather analytics

These behaviors are listed in the results, and -- if present -- are explained in each app's detail page; however, the app doesn't go so far as to show you a log of how often this happens. Clueful also notes whether your data is being encrypted, and if app makers anonymize you as a user.

Besides scanning what you have, the software is designed to let you research what kinds of information an application wants to access before you purchase it from the App Store. In a brief test, this feature appeared to be a work in progress. It was slow, and unable to pick up a handful of big name games and apps I threw its way.

All the data behind the privacy breakdowns is maintained by Bitdefender, and users can request to have apps that are not a part of that system analyzed.

App detail pages spell out what types of information apps have access to.
App detail pages spell out what types of information apps have access to. CNET

Clueful comes some three months after Apple came after fire for iOS applications that collected user contact information without asking, a behavior Apple later came out to say was a violation of its guidelines. Before that, there was the concern with how Apple's own operating system logged user location data, which Apple changed.

Predating both of those items was controversy over Apple making unique user identification numbers available to developers, who then exploited that information to track user behavior. Apple removed that feature in its most recent major version of iOS.

Worth noting is that Apple already screens iOS apps for bad behavior during its App Store review process, something that keeps apps that could cause damage to the device, or access user information without asking permission, from entering the store in the first place. Bitdefender's aim here is just tallying up what types of information apps use, and putting all that in one place that's kept up-to-date.