Apps multibillion dollar time bomb
Applications or apps for short – whether they are for cell phones, smartphones or tablets have never been more popular; with even President Obama ordering government agencies to start developing them. With this popularity has come great wealth and Apple’s App Store alone generates $5.4m a day from the top 200 apps and has seen over 63,000 new apps added this year alone (according to market research firm Distimo), from developers looking to make it big and become the next Instagram or Rovio. With so many applications available; many developers are taking too many liberties and short cuts that could potentially develop into a multibillion dollar problem for both themselves and their consumers.
The heart of this problem is security; or rather the lack of it. Developers are so desperate to make it big they are either gathering detailed personal data on consumers devices without their knowledge (as has been found with Path, LinkedIn, Carrier IQ) and MobClix (part of Velti))or else they are developing their apps without any privacy or security features (as was discovered by market research firm ALLOW in six of the top 20 most popular iPad finance apps). While both Apple and Google have best practises for app makers to follow when it comes to user data, neither screen the apps they offer before they are available for download and it’s almost impossible for consumers to tell what’s hidden inside the apps.
It may seem alarmist to worry what developers are doing with consumers data, especially since the intention behind gathering the data can be as innocent as wanting to develop more targeted apps or advertising; the problem with apps gathering data or having no security features is that its relatively easy for another developer to steal this data and use it for identity theft.
In 2011 in the US alone, over $37 billion was lost due to identity theft and it affected 1 in 25 Americans according to research firm Javelin. With some apps been downloaded tens and hundreds of millions of times, its not inconceivable to say that some of the biggest IT companies are just one rogue developer away from being implemented in a major class action suit not seen since the days of big tobacco.