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BBB Tip of the Week

Smartphone apps can make life easier, but with that ease comes ever-increasing worries about the vulnerability of your information. A recent settlement by the Federal Trade Commission revealed that one app took more information than was needed to do the job and shared it without disclosure and without getting user permission. The app, “Brightest Flashlight Free,” developed by Goldenshores Technologies, LLC, is one of the most popular on Android mobile devices, with more than 50 million downloads.

The FTC found that the app’s privacy policy had been deceiving users into sharing their geographic location and device information with advertising networks and other third parties. The privacy policy told consumers that any collected information would be used by the company, but failed to mention that it would be released to third parties. The FTC complaint also cited that the company collected information as soon as users opened the app, before they were able to accept or refuse the terms.

The settlement prohibits Goldenshores Technologies from misrepresenting how users’ information is collected and shared and requires the company to obtain consumers’ affirmative express consent, or opt-in agreement, before collecting, using and sharing information.

The Better Business Bureau urges smartphone users to consider the following:

• Research companies and apps before downloading, including industry publications and user reviews.

• Read the full privacy policy and “permissions” screen before accepting the app’s terms.

• Opt out of location sharing, when prompted, for apps that do not need this information.

• Update your apps when prompted that a new version is available. These updates fix bugs and vulnerabilities found within the app.

• Delete unneeded or unwanted apps from your phone.

For information on advertising and apps for children, check out the BBB’s Children’s Advertising Review Unit at www.asrcreviews. org/category/caru.

For more tips you can trust, visit the BBB Consumer News and Opinion Blog at

Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor