Feeds

Pandora's mobile app transmits 'mass quantities' of user data

From Android's lips to advertisers' ears

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

A free smartphone app provided by internet radio service Pandora supplies advertisers with enough user information for them to compile detailed snapshots of those who use it, researchers who analyzed the software have said.

Tuesday's report, titled Mobile Apps Invading Your Privacy and issued by software analysis firm Veracode, found that Pandora's app tracked users' age, sex, zip code and precise geographic location, which in many cases was updated in a continuous loop. The app then sent such information to servers operated by advertising services including AdMarvel and AdMob. Other information that was shared included the phone's device ID and the user's birth date.

The report follows Monday's revelation that federal prosecutors are investigating whether smartphone apps have been illegally collecting information about handset users without proper disclosures. Pandora has said it received a subpoena in the matter and believes other app providers have, as well.

If Veracode's findings are correct, they could provide plenty of fodder to investigators.

“It means your personal information is being transmitted to advertising agencies in mass quantities,” Veracode's Tyler Shields wrote.

He continued:

In isolation some of this data is uninteresting, but when compiled into a single unifying picture, it can provide significant insight into a person's life. Consider for a moment that your current location is being tracked while you are at your home, office, or significant other's house. Couple that with your gender and age and then with your geolocated IP address. When all that is placed into a single basket, it's pretty easy to determine who someone is, what they do for a living, who they associate with, and any number of other traits about them. I don't know about you, but that feels a little Orwellian to me.

A spokeswoman for the California-based company declined to comment until after a pending initial public offering is completed.

The report focused solely on Pandora's app for phones running Google's Android operating system. It found that the app is bundled with code libraries offered by five services, which in addition to AdMarvel and AdMob, include comScore, Google.Ads, and Medialets.

Pandora's audience has doubled to more than 80 million listeners, thanks to the popularity of its iPhone app, USA Today reported in January. Veracode's report made no reference to that app, presumably because of the closed nature of Apple's iOS. ®

This story was updated to reflect Veracode's reporting that personally identifiable information is sent to AdMarvel and AdMob. According to the report, comScore receives hashed information.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Knock Knock tool makes a joke of Mac AV
Yes, we know Macs 'don't get viruses', but when they do this code'll spot 'em
Shellshock over SMTP attacks mean you can now ignore your email
'But boss, the Internet Storm Centre says it's dangerous for me to reply to you'
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
NOT OK GOOGLE: Android images can conceal code
It's been fixed, but hordes won't have applied the upgrade
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
How to simplify SSL certificate management
Simple steps to take control of SSL certificates across the enterprise, and recommendations centralizing certificate management throughout their lifecycle.