Well this is upsetting. A popular Android app, Brightest Flashlight Free, has been secretly selling location data even without user consent. This is an app that’s apparently been downloaded over 100 million times, which means this isn’t some isolated app that nobody has heard of. Android users should be outraged—we all should be—that an app would sell data like that behind a user’s back. Why would a flashlight app need to track a user’s location anyway? Because of money apparently.
Upon downloading the app, users are greeted with an option to either opt in or out of location tracking. Opt in, and you really can’t complain that your data is being sold to third parties. But even data that’s being collected for users that opted out—data you’d think was off limits—is being sold. So why give users the option in the first place? Brightest Flashlight Free allegedly says data collected for those who opt in is used for internal purposes, but the FTC report claims everything is being sold, whether you opt in or not. It’s been this way since 2011, according to the FTC, just sitting there in the Google Play Store.
The FTC has ordered the app’s developer, Goldshores Technologies, to delete all the information it has collected up until now. Even if the developer complies, tons of data has already likely been sold to third parties, so the damage has been done—and it went unnoticed since 2011. How many other apps are doing this, not just in Google Play, but across all mobile ecosystems? Hopefully when you opt out of location tracking, the apps don’t actually track you. It’s hard to trust anything now when an innocuous flashlight app is going behind your back.