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Some Users Find Swype Keyboard App Makes 4000+ Location Requests Per Day 191

Posted by timothy
from the now-where-are-you dept.
New submitter postglock (917809) writes "Swype is a popular third-party keyboard for Android phones (and also available for Windows phones and other platforms). It's currently the second-most-popular paid keyboard in Google Play (behind SwiftKey), and the 17th highest of all paid apps. Recently, users have discovered that it's been accessing location data extremely frequently, making almost 4000 requests per day, or 2.5 requests per minute. The developers claim that this is to facilitate implementation of 'regional dialects,' but cannot explain why such frequent polling is required, or why this still occurs if the regional function is disabled. Some custom ROMs such as Cyanogenmod can block this tracking, but most users would be unaware that such tracking is even occurring." Readers in the linked thread don't all seem to see the same thing; if you are a Swype user, do you see thousands of location requests, none, or something in between?
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Some Users Find Swype Keyboard App Makes 4000+ Location Requests Per Day

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  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @07:34AM (#46912145) Journal
    The Google Keyboard for Android sends what you're typing to Google servers 'to improve suggestions,' so I don't think that asking for your location a lot is the worst invasion of privacy of a mainstream on-screen keyboard app. The AOSP keyboard also requires a phenomenal list of permissions, including the ability to download files without notification, read contacts, modify or delete contents of USB storage and view accounts on the device. No idea why it needs all of these things - I wouldn't mind so much if it had access to all of my data for improving predictions if it didn't also have the ability to make network connections.
  • by jones_supa (887896) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @07:58AM (#46912207)

    Maybe it will fist require a popular tech website to run a Top-10 Worst Privacy Infringing Apps in Google store.

    Could as well flip it around and instead make a third party give a "Privacy Gold Star" for apps that don't infringe your privacy and don't require unnecessary permissions from the phone operating system.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @09:21AM (#46912475) Journal

    download files without notification: dictionary updates

    Could be bundled as part of the application, updated via the normal mechanism, without requiring it to have a permission that allows it to send data remotely ('download' can mean an HTTP GET with a really long query).

    read contacts: suggestions

    Most of the time, I'm not typing a contact's name so this sounds like it would lead to a lot of false positives. I've never seen it suggest a name that isn't a common English name though, so it doesn't seem to actually need this.

    modify or delete contents of USB storage: I don't know why it needs this one, store dictionary outside private app directory?

    If that is the case, it's bad design.

    view accounts on the device: suggest your email address

    It doesn't seem to ever do that for me...

  • by nblender (741424) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @09:50AM (#46912595)

    This is one of the things I hate most about Android (having recently switched from an iphone to a Nexus5). I tried to install flashlight app but the top 5 or 10 all wanted egregious access to my phonecalls, instant messages, or full network access. I gave up.

    Later I read a slashdot comment from an Android app developer who said shortly after making his app available in the Play Store, he started receiving messages from individuals offering to pay him a per-download commission on his app if he would consent to linking their "library" in with his app... It was a very attractive commission... So that explains the requests for access to unreasonable things... I don't know how this is different in IOS-land... Maybe the apps just get that access without anyone knowing? Or maybe someone at the App store decides whether a flashlight app needs access to instant message logs ...

  • by BasilBrush (643681) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @12:21PM (#46913259)

    I don't know how this is different in IOS-land... Maybe the apps just get that access without anyone knowing? Or maybe someone at the App store decides whether a flashlight app needs access to instant message logs ...

    First of all ever app operates in it's own sandbox, so no app can access the data of another app. So the scenario you suggest isn't possible on iOS.

    Secondly, yes, there's an app reviewer, assisted by automated tools, that's looking for whether your app does bad things.

    Thirdly, things such as requesting your location, as in this Swype example, then the OS pops up a dialog asking permission when the app first tries to do it. You can allow it or deny it. And you can change the permission whenever you like via the settings app.

    None of these things are true of Android. And that's why last year 97% of mobile malware was on Android, and 0% was on iOS. (The remaining 3% was on Symbian.)

  • by WaffleMonster (969671) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @03:08PM (#46914351)

    The Google Keyboard for Android sends what you're typing to Google servers 'to improve suggestions,'

    Google keyboard provides an option to turn the feature off so there is that.

    so I don't think that asking for your location a lot

    Is it asking for your location? Is a list of take it or leave it demands most apps make these days really asking a question?

    is the worst invasion of privacy of a mainstream on-screen keyboard app.

    Perfectly happy to declare all of these fine contestants winners of the privacy invasion contest. I must say proliferation of cheesy excuses to collect data is truly inspired. We need to know where you are at all times physically to configure a localization setting...yea that's it...

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