Angry Birds Dev Gets Angry Over Wall Street Journal Report

Angry Birds Dev Gets Angry Over Wall Street Journal Report

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Angry Birds developer Rovio has strongly denied a Wall Street Journal report that its hit game transmits identifiable information including user name and password, contacts and phone location to third-party advertisers.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article examining popular iPhone and Android apps, including the mega-hit game Angry Birds, to determine what kinds of communications they were transmitting while they were running. Conducted by David Campbell of the software security company Electric Alchemy, the experiments involved using apps in isolated environments on devices restricted to running a single application at a time; the phones' data traffic was forced through a Wifi connection where it could be collected and analyzed.

The Journal found that the multi-million-selling iOS game Angry Birds was among the most egregious violators of Apple's policy not to transmit user data without permission, claiming the game transmitted the user name and password, contacts, location and phone ID to third parties. Rovio quickly and strongly denied the allegation, however, saying the report was just "vague enough to instigate mistrust in our users."

"Angry Birds does not under any circumstances collect or store personally identifiable information that could be connected in any way to individual users," the studio said. "Absolutely none of this has anything to do with advertisers - we don't have advertising in our games on the iOS."

A Rovio rep said the game does transmit data via the Crystal social gaming platform and Flurry analytical software, neither of which use identifiable data or are involved with advertising firms. "Crystal does not store any personal information, as insinuated by the WSJ article, nor does it utilize any data without the user's explicit knowledge," the rep said. "Flurry collects analytical data to display numerical data such as numbers of users per different countries based on Phone ID and general location. This information is only displayed as aggregate statistics - Flurry never stores or displays any data pertaining to an individual."

The studio said it uses the data "to improve the quality and scalability of our service now and in the future."

Other popular iPhone apps found to be transmitting various bits of user information include PopCap's Bejeweled 2, which sends user name, password and mobile number to third-party advertisers, Paper Toss from Backflip Studios, which transmits location and phone ID, and The Moron Test, which also broadcasts location and ID.

Source: Develop

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Oh wall street u so funny

Typo in the title, should be "Journal".

Anywho, it wouldn't suprise me if they were taking peoples user information. I firmly believe anyone that thinks their cell phone is even remotely private is utterly delusional. This is a device that is connected to a world wide network, it has a GPS locator in it(needed to find the nearest cell towers, no it is not a conspiracy, that's how the technology works), and the carrier has complete and total control. That's how they can get into your phone and reset passwords and stuff like that if you forget yours or disable the phones functions if it gets stolen.

I think the WSJ is just paranoid now.

ShadowKatt:
...it has a GPS locator in it(needed to find the nearest cell towers, no it is not a conspiracy, that's how the technology works)

That is not true...there are cell phones that have GPS, but it is not necessary to have GPS in order to get the nearest cell tower...in fact a cell phone doesn't really need to know this at all, since it transmits omni-directional...actually that is how the cell network works...the information from you phone travels along multiple paths (simultaneously) to different cell towers (that's part of the fail-operational mechanism and also cannot be prevented)...

But in any case...your cell phone's location can be triangulated using these cell towers, so your general statement is correct...but nobody needs GPS to find you ;)

Yet another reason I don't want an iPhone. You don't know what information is being transmitted, and there's no easy way to find out, so the only way to make sure no personal information is divulged to people you don't want having it is to install nothing.

Andy Chalk:

"we don't have advertising in our games on the iOS."

They do on Android and the ads are fucking annoying.

I'd like to see if more comes of this.

See, while I don't agree with a lot of their politics "The Wall Street Journal" is a hugely reliable source, one of the "go to" sources people use to back up their claims. It's not a tabloid, and this is one of the big reasons why the guys making "Angry Birds" are probaby so upset about it.

While we've see a counter-statement, saying this isn't true, but I'd also imagine the WSJ can prove what it claimed. I'm guessing that Rovio is guilty, and isn't going to push their defense officially, because they would probably wind up getting rocked. I'd imagine they will just make statements of denial and hope that people forget the article.

As far as Cell Phones and information gathering goes, that's a touchy subject. The problem is that with the way they work and the amount of greed involved, the providers are literally tracking everyone's usage (to get them to pay), location (for their network access), identity, and other factors. The phones themselves are pretty much portable databases on the owners, almost like having a GPS system surgically implanted in your head. They very nature of the business governing these devices means that they are rife for exploitation.

Until/Unless we ever see more in the way of unlimited "flat fee" services, or a socialized cellular network, there is never going to be much in the way of privacy here.

SomEngangVar:

Andy Chalk:

"we don't have advertising in our games on the iOS."

They do on Android and the ads are fucking annoying.

Airplane Mode gets rid of those pesky ads

I read a survey somewhere that stated that about 95% of iThingy users play apps when on the toilet. If these people really want to know that I read Texts From Last Night while in the bathroom, more power to them. But what are they gonna do? make a list of the most played apps while peeing?

C.Flat:

SomEngangVar:

Andy Chalk:

"we don't have advertising in our games on the iOS."

They do on Android and the ads are fucking annoying.

Airplane Mode gets rid of those pesky ads

If I could give you a hug I would. I love you now, C.Flat

Well, pass the tin foil hats round folks, it sure is getting warm in here.

Quite a lot of iOS games are built on some gaming platform or other whether it be Apples Games Centre, Crystal or OpenFeint. If you think they can log you onto their systems without transmitting a username/password then you have got another thing coming. Same with the analytics, Apple will tell you which iTunes store they brought your game from but zilch after that. Flurry probably just sends enough data to workout which country you are in.

Just by logging onto post here, you have probably sent the same amount of info about yourselves to the Escapist and its minions.

ThirdPrize:
Just by logging onto post here, you have probably sent the same amount of info about yourselves to the Escapist and its minions.

Similar, yeah. Because we run Google Analytics, your browser basically tells "us" what browser and OS you have, your IP address (and from that, your general location in the world), and things like your screen resolution, Flash version, stuff like that. We don't keep track of that kind of thing on an individual user level, but you're technically transmitting it to one of the services we use, and we can use it to generate a whole bunch of stats about the people that visit the site.

As developers, it's very helpful for us to know things like this. Our site, for example, is 1000px wide because we know that 99% of our users are at 1024x768 or higher, and 1000px is just wide enough to show in a full-screen browser at that size with a vertical scrollbar without having a horizontal one. I'm sure iOS developers find it equally valuable to know what version of the hardware and OS that their users have, among other things, and were I developing an app there's absolutely no way I wouldn't put in something to tell me that info.

The WSJ is probably also overly-aggressive in their research. For example, username/password sounds very threatening, but in the case of the different "game platforms" it just means that it's automatically logging you into their service when you told it to do that. Your device GUID is sent for just about everything, as it's pretty much used as your "user id" for different stat tracking. For the most part, this seems like a case of "panic journalism" to me.

cairocat:

C.Flat:

SomEngangVar:

They do on Android and the ads are fucking annoying.

Airplane Mode gets rid of those pesky ads

If I could give you a hug I would. I love you now, C.Flat

Add me to the C.Flat love-fest for this. Thank you!!

OP: This report does disturb me though. You gotta believe the amount of ads in these apps aren't there hoping we'll click on them and buy what they're selling but rather mining our data.

Virgil:

ThirdPrize:
Just by logging onto post here, you have probably sent the same amount of info about yourselves to the Escapist and its minions.

Similar, yeah. Because we run Google Analytics, your browser basically tells "us" what browser and OS you have, your IP address (and from that, your general location in the world), and things like your screen resolution, Flash version, stuff like that. We don't keep track of that kind of thing on an individual user level, but you're technically transmitting it to one of the services we use, and we can use it to generate a whole bunch of stats about the people that visit the site.

As developers, it's very helpful for us to know things like this. Our site, for example, is 1000px wide because we know that 99% of our users are at 1024x768 or higher, and 1000px is just wide enough to show in a full-screen browser at that size with a vertical scrollbar without having a horizontal one. I'm sure iOS developers find it equally valuable to know what version of the hardware and OS that their users have, among other things, and were I developing an app there's absolutely no way I wouldn't put in something to tell me that info.

The WSJ is probably also overly-aggressive in their research. For example, username/password sounds very threatening, but in the case of the different "game platforms" it just means that it's automatically logging you into their service when you told it to do that. Your device GUID is sent for just about everything, as it's pretty much used as your "user id" for different stat tracking. For the most part, this seems like a case of "panic journalism" to me.

I trust your knowledge in this matter.

 

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