How’s Apple’s Walled Garden Look Now?
Here’s a timely rebuttal to those who argue the merits of an “open” app store versus one that’s “closed”: Security firm Lookout says that an Android app called Jackeey Wallpaper has been harvesting personal information from the millions of users who downloaded it.
According to Lookout, the app–which provides free custom background wallpapers–collects the device’s phone number, subscriber identifier and the currently entered voicemail number, then sends that info to www.imnet.us–a Web site registered to someone in Shenzhen, China.
What happens to the data after that isn’t clear, but its collection and transmission to an unknown third party are pretty troubling. Still, Lookout notes, “While this sort of data collection from a wallpaper application is certainly suspicious, there’s no evidence of malicious behavior. There have been cases in the past on other mobile platforms where well-intentioned developers are simply over-zealous in their data gathering, without having malicious intent….We’ve been working with Google to investigate these apps and they’re on top of it.”
Now to be fair, Jackeey Wallpaper does, upon installation, request permission to access user phone calls. That should have been a huge red flag to anyone who downloaded it. But evidently it wasn’t: Lookout estimates Jackeey Wallpaper has been downloaded between 1.1 million and 4.6 million times.
Puts criticism of Apple’s walled garden approach to the iTunes App Store in perspective, doesn’t it? Certainly, it’s an interesting data point in the argument over curated versus non-curated app stores. If Google (GOOG) employed the same strict vetting process to apps submitted to the Android Market as Apple (AAPL) does to those submitted to the App Store, would Jackeey Wallpaper have even been approved?