Google Android apps: Shedding 'flashlight' on privacy concerns

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. A colleague told me that my Android smartphone's flashlight app (Brightest Flashlight) is actually malware designed to collect my private information. Is she correct, and if so, what preventive measures should I take?

A. In December 2013, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a settlement of charges against the maker of the Brightest Flashlight app, Idaho-based GoldenShores Technologies LLC, and its owner, Erik M. Geidl. The lawsuit alleged that the free Brightest Flashlight app, which had been downloaded and installed more than a million times via Google Play, collected and transmitted a significant amount of personal data to third parties each time the app was used. The FTC asserted that Golden­Shores and Geidl misrepresented to consumers­ how "information is collected and shared." Golden­Shores was required to delete all consumer information it had collected and to avoid deceptive practices in the future.

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To uninstall the Brightest Flashlight app, tap the Gear icon to launch the settings menu, then tap the General tab, Apps (or Applications or App Manager). Scroll down, find and tap on Brightest Flashlight, tap the Uninstall button, then hit OK.

While you may be appalled to hear that a flashlight app may be collecting your personal data, the larger problem is that many (if not most) smartphone, Facebook, and social media apps do the same thing to varying degrees. You should be aware that today, the simple acts of playing chess online, posting a photo online, downloading wallpaper, or playing music from the web often grant those vendors the right to download and collect your personal data such as your location, birthday, address, phone number, photos, contacts, friend lists, etc.


About the author

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

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