Is your privacy important to you? Do you go out of your way to find out what the Web knows about you? Good for you. Privacy is one of the most important yet most neglected aspects of our online lives, and should be protected at all cost. When thinking of privacy, the first thing that comes to mind is usually Facebook, with its ever changing privacy settings, but have you ever considered what information your mobile apps can collect about you?
Although iOS’s privacy settings are much improved in iOS 6, there’s still no clear way to find out exactly what each app knows about you, what information it can collect, and how these things can affect you. A new service by BitDefender called Clueful tries to bring some order into this area, with detailed analyses of what each iOS app knows, uses and does when it comes to your private data.
What Is Clueful?
Clueful is a simple Web app that gives you access to BitDefender’s analysis of many popular iOS apps. Designed to look and feel like an iOS app, Clueful’s layout looks like an iPhone, and the app itself is controlled my “touch” gestures which you will have to achieve with your mouse.
You can use Clueful to search for your favorite apps, and find out how they interact with your phone and your private data. For example, Clueful can tell you whether an app can access and upload your address book to its own cloud; whether it can learn your real identity; if it can put your password at risk; whether it uses and uploads your UDID; whether it might drain your battery with background services, and much more.
Each piece of information Clueful finds about an app is referred to as a “clue”, and the more clues an app has, the more it can potentially invade your privacy.
Clueful’s database is expanding all the time. At the moment, it includes mostly free apps, with paid apps to follow.
How Can It Help You?
The first thing to keep in mind is that there’s no reason to be paranoid. Some apps really do need access to some of your data in order to work, and while it helps knowing about it, there’s no reason to freak out. Other apps, on the other hand, don’t necessarily need this data in order to operate. You might want to avoid ones that access too much data, or at least try to find out exactly why they’re accessing it.
Clueful is very easy to use. You can either browse for apps using the service’s three main categories: Top Free Apps, Top Offenders and Just Analyzed, or search for any app you’re curious about. When looking at the list of apps, you can see at a glance how many “clues” each app has to its name.
When looking at specific apps, you get some basic information such as name, developer and version number, an in-house rating by Clueful users, an overview of the app’s “clues”, and a more detailed look at each clue and what it means.
In the Overview screen, you get an idea of what the app does with your data. Here, for example, you can see that Dictionary.com’s app can access and change your calendar and track your location. Why would a dictionary app need to do this?
In the Details screen, you’ll find further explanations of what the app can do, and how this can affect you. For example, the Nike+ Running app can track your location, which makes sense, but it can also drain your battery pretty quickly.
The Comments screen can be used to add your thoughts about the app. This section utilizes Facebook comments, but the comments themselves don’t have to be posted to Facebook. At the time of this writing, most apps don’t have useful comments.
You can also share your finds on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or via a link, by clicking the blue “Share” button.
The App I Was Looking For Isn’t Here. Now What?
According to Clueful’s FAQ, thousands of apps are added to the database daily. If you were curious about a specific app but can’t find it, you can send Clueful a suggestion to analyze this app. In theory, this can be done my clicking the “Info” button, and choosing “Suggest an app”. In practice, this option didn’t really work right for me, probably due to some pop-up blocking issue.
When you can get it to work, this button opens a new email window to Clueful, complete with a subject line and a short template.
If you encounter the same problem, you can write this email yourself with the following details:
Subject: I want to suggest an app
Email body: Hey Clueful, I couldn’t find an app in your database. Please check [AppName] and let me know about it! Thanks
As email body goes, you can probably write whatever you want, but use the template if you’re lazy.
Clueful is a brilliant service that can really help you understand your iOS apps better and find out exactly what they know about you. Despite the unfortunate iPhone design which makes it somewhat confusing to use (don’t try scrolling with your mouse wheel, this doesn’t work with “touch” interface), it’s still easy enough for anyone to use, so there are no excuses.
Did you find some interesting details on Clueful? Do you think this information is really important, or is it all just paranoia? Discuss in the comments!