Consumers Left In the Dark: ‘Brightest Flashlight’ App Settles With FTC Over Geolocation Allegations

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brightest flashlight appUsing your phone as a flashlight seems like a brilliant idea. But would you have assumed that by downloading a flashlight app you’d be handing over your personal information?

Sadly, that’s exactly the reason why the team behind Android’s “Brightest Flashlight” app are being forced to delete any personal information collected from consumers — just one part of their settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC claimed the free app deceived consumers about how their geolocation information would be shared with advertising networks and other third parties.

Although downloaded by tens of millions of users, the company’s privacy policy “deceptively failed to disclose that the app transmitted users’ precise location and unique device identifier to third parties, including advertising networks [and] deceived consumers by presenting them with an option to not share their information, even though it was shared automatically rendering the option meaningless,” according to the FTC complaint.

In other words, consumers were left in the dark. The Brightest Flashlight privacy policy told consumers that any information collected was private — but did not mention that the information would also be sent to third parties, such as advertising networks.

Consumers also were presented with a false choice when they downloaded the app, according to the complaint. Upon first opening the app, they were shown the company’s End User License Agreement, which included information on data collection. At the bottom of the license agreement, consumers could click to “Accept” or “Refuse” the terms of the agreement. Even before a consumer had a chance to accept those terms, though, the application was already collecting and sending information to third parties — including location and the unique device identifier!

Although hard to believe, the company behind this bright idea won’t be shutting down. Instead, the FTC is requiring the firm to rewrite its privacy policy to fully disclose to consumers — in clear language — that it DOES share geo-location and device ID data with third parties, including advertising networks.

What does that truly mean for your online privacy? Well, smartphones make it easy for marketers to use your location data to create a detailed profile and serve you promotions for products in real time. So that free app you’re about to download? It may cost you plenty when it comes to your personal and sensitive information.

 

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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi's manager of digital content strategy.